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I 


THE 


LIFE   AND   SERVICES 


OF 


Joel  R.  Poinsett, 


THE    CONFIDENTIAL    AGENT   IN   SOUTH    CAROLINA 
OF  PRESIDENT  JACKSON  DURING    THE  NUL- 
LIFICATION TROUBLES   OF  1832. 


BY 

CHARLES    J.    STILL E,    LL.D. 


Rcprvited  from 
"  The  Pennsylvania  Magazine  of  History  and  Biography." 


PHILADELPHIA 
1888. 


THE 


LIFE   AND   SERVICES 


OF 


Joel  R.  Poinsett. 


THE    CONFIDENTIAL    AGENT   IN   SOUTH    CAROIINA 

OF  PRESIDENT  JACKSON  DURING    THE  NUL- 

LIFICATION  TROUBLES   OF  1832. 


BY 


CHARLES    J.    STILLE,    LL.D. 


Reprinted  from 
"  The  Pennsylvania  Magazine  of  History  and  Biography. 


PHILADELPHIA 
1888. 


frrrS8 


THE 

LIFE    AND    SERVICES 


OF 


JOEL  R.  POINSETT. 


I. 

[Through  the  courtesy  of  the  surviving  member  of  Mr. 
Poinsett's  family,  the  Historical  Society  has  been  placed  in 
the  possession  of  a  mass  of  papers  which  illustrate  very 
fully  his  public  and  his  private  life.  That  life  was  one  of 
singularly  varied  interest.  Mr.  Poinsett  was  probably  the 
greatest  American  traveller  of  his  time,  penetrating  into  the 
most  remote  and  then  little  known  regions  of  both  the  Old 
and  the  New  World ;  he  afterwards  won  distinction  in  the 
diplomatic  service  of  the  country,  and,  above  all,  he  was 
known  as  the  leader  of  the  Union  party  in  South  Carolina 
during  its  conflict  with  the  Nullification  heresy  of  1832. 
The  papers  which  he  left  at  his  death,  and  which  his  family 
have  placed  at  the  disposal  of  the  Historical  Society,  seem  to 
be  of  great  value  and  interest,  as  they  throw  light  upon  the 
important  events  in  which  he  took  part.  An  attempt  has 
been  made  so  to  connect  them  in  the  following  narrative 
that  their  true  significance  as  contributions  to  American 
history  may  be  understood.] 

3 


4  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

The  career  of  Mr.  Poinsett  is  not  very  familiar  to  this 
generation,  at  least  in  this  part  of  the  country,  and  indeed, 
the  recollection  of  the  great  events  which  are  associated  in 
our  history  with  his  name  during  more  than  a  third  of  the 
present  century  has  strangely  faded  from  the  memory  of 
most  people.     But  fifty  years  ago  his  reputation  as  a  states- 
man of  a  high  order  had  been  fairly  gained  by  his  public 
services,  and  was  generally  recognized.     His  title  to  this 
reputation    seems,  on  a  review  of  his  public  life,  to  have 
been  on  the  whole  a  just  one.     He  belonged  in  his  early 
manhood  to  that   small  but   brilliant  body  of  Americans 
who,  with  plenty  of  means,  many  accomplishments,  and 
much  leisure,  travelled  with  very  observant  eyes  most  exten- 
sively in  portions  of  Europe,  then  little  visited  by  cultivated 
people  of  any  country.     Their  qualities  gained  them  ad- 
mission into  the  highest  social  circles  in  the  countries  in 
which  they  travelled,  and  they  succeeded  by  some  means, 
of  which  those  who  came  after  them  seem  to  have  lost  the 
secret,  in   knowing   everybody   worth   knowing,    however 
high  their  rank  or  official  position  throughout  Europe,  and 
in  leaving  a  most  favorable  impression  of  themselves,  and 
of  the  nation  which  they  may  be  said  to  have  informally 
represented.     The  curiosity  of  the  foremost  courtiers  and 
statesmen  of  the  Old  World  (men  whose  names  are  now 
historical)  was   naturally  excited  by  observing  the  peculi- 
arities of  the  citizens  of  the  New,  as  they  were  exhibited 
in   the   types   who,   at  that  era,   presented   themselves    as 
Americans.      It  cannot  be  doubted  that  men  like  Wash- 
ington  Irving  in  his   younger  days,  the  late  Mr.  George 
Ticknor,  and  Mr.  Poinsett  among  others  did  us  a  service 
with  the  governing  classes  of  the  Old  World  during  the  first 
third  of  this  century  which  it  is  not  easy  to  over-estimate. 

Mr.  Poinsett  was  not  only  a  great  traveller  in  his  early 
manhood,  but  wherever  he  went  he  was  proud  of  being 
known  as  an  American  citizen,  a  title  which  his  own  per- 
sonal qualities  invested  in  the  eyes  of  those  with  whom 
he  was  brought  in  contact  with  consideration  and  respect 
He  wandered   too    through   the   most   remote   regions   01 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  JR.  Poinsett.  5 

Russia.  He  became  acquainted  with  the  Tartars,  the  Per- 
sians, the  Armenians,  the  Georgians  who  live  in  the  Trans- 
Caucasian  range  of  mountains,  and  along  the  shores  of  the 
Caspian  Sea,  forming  various  tribes  whose  rulers  had  never 
heard  of  the  existence  of  America;  later,  his  travels  led 
him  to  the  other  end  of  the  world,  to  South  America, 
where  he  was  sent  by  our  government  to  ascertain  the  con- 
dition of  the  different  provinces  at  that  time  in  revolt  against 
the  Spanish  Crown.  In  all  these  countries  he  became  favor- 
ably known  to  the  most  distinguished  men  of  the  time,  from 
the  Emperor  Alexander  of  Russia  down  to  the  famous  rev 
olutionary  chiefs  in  South  America.  Everywhere  he  was 
received  and  treated  with  the  utmost  kindness  and  con- 
sideration. His  great  intelligence,  his  wonderful  tact  in 
dealing  with  men,  and  his  perfect  sincerity  gave  bim  a 
commanding  influence  wherever  he  went,  and  that  influence 
was  always  employed  for  the  advancement  of  his  country's 
interests. 

The  four  years  he  passed  in  Congress  (1821  to  1825)  added 
much  to  his  fame,  owing  to  his  long  familiarity  from  per- 
sonal observation  with  all  that  concerned  our  foreign  rela 
tions.  He  was  thought  so  peculiarly  fitted  for  the  diplomatic 
service  that  he  was  appointed  our  first  Minister  to  Mexico. 
There,  even  with  his  experience,  he  found  it  difficult  to  steer 
clearly  through  the  embarrassments  which  were  caused  by 
the  distracted  and  revolutionary  condition  of  the  country, 
but  the  knowledge  that  he  gained  was  invaluable  to  us,  and 
he  at  least  taught  the  Mexicans,  on  a  memorable  occasion, 
a  lesson  in  regard  to  the  respect  due  the  American  flag  (of 
which  more  hereafter)  which  they  have  never  forgotten. 

He  returned  from  Mexico  just  in  time  to  take  the  lead  of 
the  Union  party  in  South  Carolina  in  its  conflict  with  the 
nullification  and  threatened  secession  of  that  State, — a  post 
peculiarly  suited  to  his  active  and  intrepid  spirit.  It  seems 
to  me  that  he  has  never  received  proper  credit  for  the  cour- 
age and  intelligence  with  which  he  maintained  the  cause  of 
the  Union  in  those  dark  days  when  the  great  forces — social 
and  political — not  only  of  South  Carolina,  but  of  a  consid- 


6  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

erable  portion  of  other  States  of  the  South,  were  in  the 
hands  of  the  nullifiers,  and  of  those  who  sympathized 
with  them.  By  his  influence,  and  that  of  the  Union  party 
led  by  him,  supported  by  the  inflexible  determination  of 
President  Jackson  to  maintain  the  Union  by  any  display  of 
force  which  might  be  necessary  to  accomplish  his  object, 
the  conspiracy  for  nullifying  the  laws  of  Congress,  which 
was  embodied  in  the  famous  ordinance  of  South  Carolina 
in  1832,  was  broken  up,  the  ordinance  itself  was  repealed, 
and  South  Carolina  was  once  more  brought  into  her  normal 
relations  with  the  general  government. 

Some  years  later  Mr.  Poinsett  became  the  Secretary 
of  War  in  the  Cabinet  of  Mr.  Van  Buren.  His  adminis- 
tration of  that  office  was  marked  by  intelligent  and  compre- 
hensive measures  in  regard  to  many  subjects  of  national 
interest,  among  others  the  improvement  of  the  artillery  of 
the  army,  the  honest  treatment  of  the  Indians  dependent 
upon  the  government,  and  the  organization  of  the  famous 
exploring  expedition  under  Commodore  Wilkes.  He  laid 
the  foundation  of  much  that  has  since  been  done  by  the  gov- 
ernment, by  advocating  a  wise  and  liberal  national  policy 
with  reference  to  these  and  kindred  objects.  During  his 
whole  career  Mr.  Poinsett  proved  himself  a  thorough  and 
typical  American.  His  notions  of  public  policy  were  essen- 
tially national,  and  his  allegiance  to  the  government  of  the 
United  States  was  always  paramount.  As  such  a  public 
man,  especially  a  public  man  from  South  Carolina  imbued 
with  such  principles,  and  always  standing  firm  on  the  na- 
tional side,  is  something  of  a  political  curiosity,  his  life 
and  career  seem  well  worth  studying. 

Joel  Roberts  Poinsett  was  born  in  Charleston  on  the 
2d  of  March,  1778.  He  was  of  that  Huguenot  stock  whose 
force,  intelligence,  and  virtue  have  been  so  conspicuous  in 
the  history  of  the  whole  country,  and  especially  in  that  of 
South  Carolina.  His  father,  Dr.  Elisha  Poinsett,  was  an  emi- 
nent physician  in  Charleston,  and  he  seems  to  have  taken  un- 
common pains  in  the  training  of  his  son.  Young  Poinsett's 
school  days  were  passed  in  Charleston  and  in  Greenfield,  in 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  7 

Connecticut,  in  which  latter  place  he  was  under  the  care  and 
instruction  of  the  Rev.  Dr.  Dwight,  afterwards  so  famous 
as  the   President  of  Yale  College.     His  constitution  was 
naturally  frail  and  delicate,  and  it  was  found  that  his  health 
suffered  so  much  from  the  severe  climate  of  Connecticut 
that  he  returned   after  two   years'  absence  to  Charleston. 
There,  for  a  time,  he  pursued  his  studies,  but  in  1796  it  was 
determined  to  send  him  to  England,  and  enter  him  as  a 
pupil  at  St.  Paul's  School  in  London,  where  his  relative,  Dr. 
Roberts,  was  the  Head  Master.    There  he  made  great  prog- 
ress, particularly  in  his  knowledge  of  the  languages.      He 
was  a  respectable  classical  scholar,  for  he  speaks  in  after- 
years  of  having  studied  Herodotus  in  the  original  Greek, 
as  a  guide-book  to  his  travels  in  Southern  Russia  and  the 
shores  of  the  Caspian  Sea.    In  modern  languages  he  became 
very  proficient.    He  acquired  a  fluent  knowledge  of  French, 
German,  Italian,  and  Spanish,  and  made  some  progress  in 
Russian,  a  sort  of  knowledge  which  proved  eminently  useful 
to  him  as  a  traveller. 

From  London  he  went  to  Edinburgh,  intending  to  pursue 
his  medical  studies  there.     He  soon  became  the  favorite 
pupil  of  the  celebrated  Dr.  Gregory,  then  one  of  the  fore- 
most Professors  in  the  University.     His  health,  however, 
broke  down,  owing  to  confinement  to  his  hard  work  as  a 
medical  student.    By  the  advice  of  his  friends  he  abandoned 
for  a  time  the  study  of  medicine,  and  went  to  Portugal. 
Returning  with  restored  strength,  he  became  a  pupil  of  Mar- 
quois,  who  had  been  a  Professor  in  the  Military  Academy 
at  Woolwich.     The  bent  of  Mr.  Poinsett's  mind  and  tastes 
was  always  towards  the  life  of  a  soldier,  and  under  Marquois 
he  acquired  a  thorough  theoretical  knowledge  of  his  pro- 
fession, and  his  body  was  strengthened  by  the  active  military 
habits  and  discipline  in  which  he  was  trained.     His  father, 
however,  was  averse  to  his  entering  the  army  in  time  of 
peace,  and  he  was  called  back  to  Charleston,  and  became  a 
student  of  law.     This  pursuit,  however,  was  little  suited  to 
his  active,  not  to  say  restless,  habits,  and  it  was  soon  aban- 
doned.    He  was  then  permitted  by  his  father  to  return  to 


8  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

Europe  and  to  become,  what  his  ardent  curiosity  and  quick 
intelligence  had  always  inclined  him  to  be,  a  traveller,  going 
wherever  his  love  of  knowledge  or  adventure  might  call 
him.  He  spent  the  winter  of  1801-2  in  Paris.  He  was 
fortunate  in  being  there  at  a  period  the  most  interesting  and 
important  in  many  respects  of  any  in  French  history.  It 
was  the  period  of  the  first  consulate  of  Napoleon,  the  era 
of  transition  from  the  horrors  of  the  Revolution  and  of 
civil  and  foreign  war  to  the  settlement  of  a  stable  and  or- 
derly government.  It  was  the  era  of  the  peace  of  Luneville 
and  of  Amiens,  which  had  been  brought  about  by  the 
French  victories  of  Hohenlinden  and  Marengo.  Never, 
perhaps,  in  the  whole  career  of  Napoleon  was  his  power  of 
doing  good  so  absolute  as  at  this  particular  epoch,  and  never 
was  his  transcendent  genius  so  conspicuous  as  when  he 
strove  to  reconstruct  French  society  from  the  ruins  which 
had  been  left  by  the  Revolution.  Mr.  Poinsett  witnessed 
the  beginning  of  the  mighty  task  which  Napoleon  had 
undertaken  of  endeavoring  to  bring  order  out  of  chaos. 
During  his  residence  in  Paris  the  churches  were  reopened 
for  Divine  service,  and  a  Concordat  with  the  Pope  agreed 
upon,  the  Legion  of  Honor  was  established,  a  general  am- 
nesty was  proclaimed,  the  national  finances  and  credit  were 
re-established,  a  new  system  of  taxation  was  adopted,  the 
revolutionary  law  of  succession  to  property  was  confirmed, 
a  system  of  education  was  organized,  the  Code  Civil,  perhaps 
the  grandest  and  certainly  the  most  enduring  monument  of 
the  Napoleonic  era,  was  discussed  and  its  main  principles 
settled,  and  throughout  France  vast  works  of  public  utility 
designed  to  make  people  forget  the  miseries  of  the  Revolu- 
tion, and  bless  the  government  of  the  First  Consul,  were 
undertaken.  It  was  an  era  of  unbounded  activity  and  high 
hopefulness.  The  young  American  traveller  had  abundant 
opportunity  of  studying  the  effect  of  these  conciliatory 
measures  on  public  opinion,  and  of  witnessing  the  violent 
strusrele  between  the  elements  of  the  old  and  new  as  the 
master-hand  of  Napoleon  fused  them  together.  Paris,  too, 
at  that  time  was  full  of  foreigners,  many  of  them  men  of 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  9 

distinction  in  their  respective  countries,  who  had  been  led 
there  during  the  peace  by  their  curiosity  to  see  the  wonder- 
ful First  Consul,  and  who  wished  to  judge  for  themselves  of 
the  likelihood  of  the  stability  of  the  vast  changes  which  he 
had  made  in  the  organization  of  the  national  life.     "With 
these  men,  as  well  as  with  the  distinguished  soldiers  who 
surrounded  Napoleon,  he  discussed  freely  the  various  meas- 
ures proposed  for  the  reorganization  of  the  nation,  and  thus 
in  a  very  important  way  his  political  education  was  advanced. 
The  next  year  Mr.  Poinsett,  taking  advantage  of  the  yet 
unbroken  peace,  visited  Italy,  then  divided  into  a  number 
of  ephemeral  republics  established  by  the  French  after  their 
conquest  of  the  country.     He  did  not  fail  to  observe  how 
little  the  real  character  of  the  people  of  that  country  had 
been  changed  by  the  strange  republicanism  (according  to  his 
standard)  which  had  been  forced  upon  them  by  the  French 
That  character  remained  still  Italian,  with  all  its  defects  and 
characteristic  traits,  and  the  administration  was  wholly  con- 
trolled by  French   agents,  and  in  harmony  with   French 
policy  and  interests. 

These  were  new  specimen  types  of  the  republican  form  for 
Mr.  Poinsett,  and  he  found  another  of  the  same  kind  when 
he  reached  Switzerland  on  his  travels.  Switzerland  was  the 
oldest  republic  in  modern  history,  but  its  ancient  organization 
was  not  of  the  French  pattern,  and  did  not  suit  the  French 
policy  after  the  country  had  been  overrun  by  the  French 
armies.  The  radical  party  supported  by  the  French  strove 
to  establish,  contrary  to  all  Swiss  traditions  and  experience, 
a  highly  centralized  system,  the  other,  one  in  which  each 
canton  should  be  practically  independent.  This  latter  party, 
made  up  chiefly  of  the  men  of  the  forest  cantons,  determined 
upon  resistance,  and  they  selected  the  celebrated  Aloys 
Reding  as  their  leader.  WTien  Mr.  Poinsett  reached  Swit- 
zerland he  found  that  Reding  had  raised  an  army  of  ten 
thousand  men  to  maintain  the  cantonal  independence,  and 
he  joined  his  army  without  hesitation.  The  campaign  was 
a  short  one,  and  Reding's  forces  even  gained  an  important 
victory  over   their  own  countrymen  at  Morgarten,  a  spot 


10  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

sacred  in  the  eyes  of  the  Swiss,  for  there  they  had,  in  1515, 
destroyed  the  army  of  their  Austrian  tyrants  under  the 
leadership  of  a  Reding  of  the  same  name  and  lineage  aa 
that  of  their  present  leader,  but  the  French  allies  of  their 
enemies  having  surrounded  them,  and  cut  them  off  from  all 
supplies,  Reding  and  his  followers  were  forced  to  capitulate. 

Mr.  Poinsett  seems  always  to  have  embraced  the  oppor- 
tunity of  becoming  acquainted  with  the  men  in  each  coun- 
try he  visited  who  had  become  for  any  reason  famous. 
From  the  camp  of  Reding  he  passed  into  the  society  of 
M.  decker  and  that  of  his  accomplished  daughter,  Madame 
de  Stael,  who  were  then  exiles  from  France,  and  were  re- 
siding at  Coppet,  on  the  shores  of  the  Lake  of  Geneva. 
Through  the  kind  offices  of  Mr.  Livingston,  then  American 
Minister  in  France,  who  was  travelling  in  Switzerland,  he 
was  brought  into  friendly  relations  with  these  illustrious 
personages.  They  told  him  much  concerning  the  stormy 
scenes  of  the  French  Revolution,  in  the  early  part  of  which 
they  had  been  such  prominent  actors,  and,  according  to  Mr. 
Poinsett's  account,  they  never  wearied  of  talking  of  events 
in  French  and  American  history.  They  explained,  too,  the 
secret  motives  (which  none  knew  better  than  they)  of  many 
little-understood  acts  of  the  French  government  in  its  policy 
towards  the  United  States  during  the  American  Revolution. 
Mr.  Poinsett  confirms — what  was  well  known  from  other 
sources — the  filial  devotion,  approaching  adoration,  with 
which  Madame  de  Stael  regarded  her  father  in  his  declining 
years.  Owing  to  his  imperfect  utterance  through  the  loss 
of  his  teeth,  and  Mr.  Livingston's  deafness,  Madame  de 
Stael  became  to  Mr.  Poinsett  the  charming  interpreter  of 
the  words  of  wisdom  which  fell  from  his  lips. 

From  Switzerland  Mr.  Poinsett  went  to  Vienna,  passing 
through  Southern  Germany,  at  that  time  far  from  being  the 
attractive  and  interesting  country  which  it  has  since  been 
made  by  the  conveniences  of  modern  travel.  He  remained 
but  a  short  time  in  Vienna,  long  enough,  however,  to  become 
a  habitue  of  the  salon  of  the  celebrated  Prince  de  Ligne, 
the  most  distinguished  soldier  of  Austria.     He  was  called 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  1 1 

home  by  the  news  of  the  death  of  his  father,  and  by  the 
serious  illness  of  his  only  sister. 

His  love  of  travel  and  of  adventure  still  remaining  un- 
abated, he  returned  in  1806  to  Europe,  intending  to  carry 
out  his  long-cherished  plan  of  travelling  in  Russia.  Indeed, 
at  that  time  this  was  the  only  country  on  the  Continent 
through  which  a  traveller  could  pass  without  inconvenience 
or  danger,  as  it  was  the  only  one  which  was  not  overrun 
by  the  armies  engaged  in  the  Napoleonic  wars.  He  landed 
at  Gothenburg,  and  passed  through  Sweden  so  rapidly  that 
he  seemed  impressed  chiefly  with  the  extraordinary  contrast 
between  the  poverty  of  the  people  and  the  vast  amount  of 
food  and  drink  which  they  were  capable  of  consuming. 

After  a  painful  and  tedious  journey  through  Finland,  he 
reached  St.  Petersburg  in  the  beginning  of  the  winter  of 
1806-7.  At  this  capital  he  had  unusual  advantages  of  J. 
studying  the  character  of  the  people  and  the  condition  of 
the  country  at  a  most  important  crisis.  We  had  then  no 
Minister  in  Russia,  and  Mr.  Poinsett  was  afterwards  told  by 
the  Emperor  Alexander  that  he  was  the  second  American 
gentleman  who  had  been  presented  to  him. 

The  condition  of  Russia  during  that  winter  was  a  very 
critical  one,  as   the   danger  of  a  French  invasion  became 
imminent.     After  the  victories  of  Austerlitz  and  Jena,  by 
which   the   French   had   destroyed  the   armies  of  Austria 
and   Prussia,  they  pressed  on  eastward  with  the  hope  of 
subduing  their  ally,  Russia.     The  battles  of  Eylau  and  of 
Pultusk  were  fought  during  this  period,  and  although  the 
Russians  claimed  a  victory  in  each  case,  the  progress  of  the 
French  towards  their  frontier  was  not  stopped.    Those  who 
were  responsible  for  the  safety  of  the  country  were  filled 
with  grave  anxiety,  and  the  Emperor  Alexander  did  not 
hesitate   to  say,  in   a   confidential    conversation  with   Mr. 
Poinsett,  that  he  might  even  be  obliged  to  sign  a  treaty  of 
peace  under  the  walls  of  Tobolsk  (Siberia).     A  ukaseVas 
issued  in  December  calling  for  six  hundred  thousand  addi- 
tional troops  to  defend  the  Empire.     Notwithstanding  all 
these   preparations,  and   the   grave   preoccupations  of  the 


12  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  JR.  Poinsett. 

time,  the  winter  gayeties  of  St.  Petersburg,  according  to 
Mr.  Poinsett,  were  not  interrupted.  How  the  Russians 
bore  themselves,  and  how  they  entertained  strangers  while 
in  imminent  danger  of  invasion,  is  best  told  in  Mr.  Poinsett's 
own  letters,  extracts  from  which  we  lay  before  the  reader. 

..."  Our  consul,  Mr.  Levett  Harris,  asked  permission  to 
present  me  at  Court  on  the  first  presentation  day,  whereupon 
he  received  the  next  day  a  note  from  the  Baron  de  Budberg 
minister  of  foreign  affairs  asking  an  interview,  whereat  he 
told  him,  that  the  Emperor  would  not  wait  until  the  next 
presentation  day,  but  would  receive  Mr.  Poinsett  the  fol- 
lowing morning  at  Parade  and  that  an  aide-de-camp  would  be 
sent  to  conduct  him  there.    Accordingly  I  rose  and  dressed 
by  candlelight  and  after  taking  a  cup  of  coffee   had   not 
long  to  wait  for  the  officer  who  was  sent  to  usher  me  to  the 
Imperial  presence.     We  were  set  down  at  the  door  of  an 
immense  barrack  where  I  found  the  Emperor  in  front  of 
the  guard  surrounded  by  a  train  of  general  officers  in  bril- 
liant uniforms.     He  towered  above  them- all  and  was  dis- 
tinguished by  his  great  height  and  manly  form,  as  well  as  by 
a  pleasing  and  refined  expression  of  countenance.     He  re- 
ceived me  courteously,  even  kindly.    Spoke  favorably  of  our 
country,  said  that  I  was  the  second  American  gentleman 
who  had  visited  Russia  and  was  glad  to  hear  that  I  was  the 
friend  of  Mr.  Allen  Smith  who  was  remembered  in  Russia 
with   esteem    and  whose   departure  had   been    universally 
regretted.      He  made  a  sort  of  apology  for  receiving   me 
so  unceremoniously  but  supposed  an  American  would  not 
object  to  be  so  treated.     After  a  pretty  long  talk  he  bowed 
meaningly  &  I  withdrew.     I  have  since  been  to  court  and 
been  presented  to  the  Reigning  Empress  and  the  Empress 
Mother — on  this  occasion  the  Emperor  advanced  to  meet 
me  &  shook  me  cordially  by  the  hand.      This  distinction 
has  brought  me  into  notice,  into  fashion  I  may  say.    I  have 
not  dined  in  my  own  lodgings  since  I  have  been  here  nor 
passed  an  evening  in  quiet.     I  dine  out  daily  as  a  thing  of 
course,  and  go  in  the  early  part  of  the  evening  to  some  ball  or 
soiree  or  reunion  of  some  sort  and  close  the  night  at  Count 
Gregory   OrlofPs   where  the   members  of  the  Diplomatic 
Corps  usually  drop  in  to  sup  &  talk   over  the   news   and 
events  of  the  day.     At  Count  OrlofPs  I  meet  many  very 
pleasant   men    among  them   Pozzo   di   Borgo   a  Corsican 
gentleman  who  has  just  entered  the  service  of  Russia.     I 
was  going  to  say  that  his  principal  recommendation  is  his 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  13 

avowed  hatred  &  hostility  to  Napoleon,  the  inheritance  of 
some  family  feud  aggravated  by  personal  injuries  or  insults  ; 
but  he  professes  other  qualifications  for  office,  is  well  in- 
structed and  well  informed,  shrewd  and  bold.  He  enjoys 
the  confidence  of  the  Emperor  &  will  rise  high.  He 
supped  at  OrlofPs  the  first  night  after  he  donned  the  Rus- 
sian uniform  and  we  drank  to  his  future  success.  He  is  a 
good  talker  and  an  agreeable  companion. 

"  My  acquaintance  with  that  gifted  nobleman  Lord  Royston 
son  of  Lord  Hardwicke,  ripened  into  friendship  and  as  our 
tastes  accorded  we  agreed  to  travel  together  in  the  spring 
into  the  Asiatic  possessions  of  Russia.  The  southern  por- 
tion of  the  Continent  of  Europe  was  closed  to  English 
travellers  and  they  were  fain  to  turn  their  steps  to  the 
north,  so  that  I  met  many  distinguished  men  from  that 
country  in  Vienna  &  in  St.  Petersburg. 

"  Lord  Royston  was  a  ripe  scholar  and  we  read  Herodotus 
together  as  a  preparation  for  our  eastern  tour  and  studied 
Russ  that  we  might  talk  a  little  to  the  people.  "We  found  it 
a  difficult  language  to  acquire  and  thought  it  resembled  the 
Greek  in  the  grammar  &  construction.  Like  the  Greek, 
it  has  the  dual  which  no  other  modern  tongue  has,  &  we 
found  some  good  Russian  translations  of  Grecian  poetry. 

"  Let  me  tell  you  how  the  day  passes  here  to  the  idle  man 
of  leisure  who  seeks  to  make  the  time  agreeable.  I  gen- 
erally dress  by  candle  light  so  that  the  dawn  of  a  winter's 
day  finds  me  ready  to  read  or  go  forth  to  parade  to  show 
myself.  Here  the  Emperor  sometimes  chats  with  me  and 
the  officers  always.  By  the  way  I  am  indebted  to  them  for 
information  which  saved  me  from  much  suffering.  It  is 
against  all  forms  of  etiquette  to  present  oneself  with  great 
coat  or  other  outward  covering  before  the  Emperor,  so  that 
the  first  time  I  waited  on  him  at  Parade  I  nearly  perished 
with  cold.  The  officers  saw  my  situation  and  advised  me 
before  I  repeated  my  visit  to  have  my  clothes  lined  with 
oiled  silk — I  did  so  and  never  sufi'ered  again  from  the  same 
cause.  After  breakfast  Lord  Royston  calls  and  we  have  our 
Russian  master  &  read  for  an  hour  or  two  when  we  then 
go  out  to  walk  or  drive  to  see  sights  or  separate  to  our  sev- 
eral amusements.  I  usually  to  the  Salle  D'Armes  kept  by 
one  Silverbriik  a  German  an  excellent  master.  Here  there 
is  always  good  company.  We  then  sometimes  adjourn  to 
take  a  second  breakfast  with  Prince  Adam  Ctzartorizki 
an  accomplished  Polish  nobleman  and  a  great  favorite  of 
the  Emperor  Alexander.     Then  home  to  dress  for  dinner 


14  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

and  the  evening  passes  as  already  described.  Apropos  of 
dining  I  received  the  other  day  an  invitation,  an  order  I 
should  have  said,  to  dine  with  the  Emperor  at  three  o'clock. 
I  repaired  to  the  palace  at  the  hour  indicated  and  was  re- 
ceived by  the  Marshal  Prince  Tolstoi,  and  ushered  into 
the  presence.  The  Empress  who  is  one  of  the  most  dig- 
nified persons,  very  pretty  withal,  I  ever  saw  was  walking 
about  the  room  with  her  sister  and  His  Majesty  standing 
at  a  window  overlooking  the  Neva.  A  favorite  aide-de- 
camp was  present  who  with  the  Mareschale  made  our  party 
of  six.  I  was  received  unceremoniously  and  treated  kindly 
so  much  so  that  but  for  a  little  extra  magnificence  at  table 
might  have  fancied  myself  dining  with  a  bon  bourgeois.  Some 
of  the  servants  were  from  the  East  &  wore  the  rich  and 
somewhat  fantastic  dress  of  their  country.  The  soul  of  the 
repast  was  an  easy,  pleasant  flow  of  talk  in  which  the  Em- 
press mingled  with  great  sweetness  &  good  sense.  After 
dinner  we  returned  to  the  reception  room,  where  we  partook 
of  coffee  and  had  a  very  long  conversation  upon  the  politi- 
cal affairs  of  Europe.  The  Emperor  urged  me  to  learn  the 
language  and  seemed  pleased  when  I  told  him  I  was  doing 
so.  He  then  expressed  a  wish  that  I  should  visit  his  domin- 
ions and  bring  him  an  exact  account  of  their  condition  add- 
ing some  flattering  words  which  I  will  not  repeat.  I  have 
met  him  since  and  he  has  always  renewed  the  subject. 
The  last  time  he  addressed  a  few  words  to  me  jocularly  in 
Russ  which  I  fortunatelv  understood  &  could  answer.  He 
laughed  and  encouraged  me  to  persevere.  By  the  way  these 
meetings  in  the  streets  are  awful  events.  When  the  Em- 
peror stops  to  talk  to  any  person,  which  he  does  very  rarely, 
every  one  stops  too  so  that  the  pavement  &  street  are  choked 
with  the  passengers  no  doubt  cursing  in  their  hearts  the 
interruption  and  its  cause. 

"  As  I  was  told  would  happen  after  dining  with  the  Em- 
peror, the  Empress  Mother  who  keeps  a  court  of  her  own 
invited  me  to  her  table.  This  was  a  very  different  aflair, 
a  dinner  of  twelve  covers  the  only  ladies  the  Empress  and 
the  Grand  Duchess  Catherine,  the  men  were  the  officers  of 
her  court  and  attached  to  her  service.  I  dare  say  pleasant 
gentlemanly  men,  but  I  had  no  opportunity  of  ascertaining 
their  companionable  qualities.  I  was  seated  nearly  opposite 
the  Empress  and  we  had  all  the  talk  to  ourselves.  She  took 
no  notice  of  any  one  else  &  addressed  herself  altogether  to 
me  sometimes  questioning  me  without  pity  &  at  others 
telling  me  of  her  charitable  and  manufacturing  establish- 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  15 

ments  both  here  and  at  Moscow.     I  must  see  them  from 
Cronstadt  to  Moscow.    The  first  part  I  have  undergone,  but 
the  best  is  to  be  seen  at  Moscow,  an  orphan  house  &  estab- 
lishment of  Demoiselles  nobles.      The  magnificence  and  re- 
finement displayed  in  these  court  entertainments  are  capti- 
vating and  the  notice  of  such  personages  highly  flattering 
It  has  not   turned  my  head   quite   &   I   do   not  think  it 
would  be  agreeable  to  pass  one's  life  in  such  companv      I 
was  going  to  write  Society  but  there  is  no  Society  properlv 
so  called  without  perfect  equality.     As  I  promised  I  went 
to  Cronstadt  the  port  of  St.  Petersburg.     Harris  (the  Con- 
sul) accompanied  me  in  a  sleigh.     We  set  out  before  day- 
light that  we  might  return  the  same  evening.     We  saw  the 
cotton   manufactory  which  is  under  the  patronage  of  the 
impress  mother,  and  the  workshops  of  the  navf  Vard  all 
very  inferior  to  those  I  had  seen  at  home  and  in  England 
In  the  former  I  especially  noted  the  excellencies  &  defect 
for  I  was  warned  that  I  should  have  to  undergo  a  strict 
examination  the  first  time  I  met  the  lady  patroness.     Look- 
ing trom  the  docks  to  seaward  as  far  as  the  eye  could  reach 
was  one  sheet  of  ice  covered  with  a  thick  coating  of  snow 
I  was  summoned  to  the  palace  to  assist  at  another  dinner 
party  &  to  be  questioned  by  the  Empress  mother.      The 
affair  went  off  exactly  as  the  first  party  had  done  except 
tnat  we  talked  a  great  deal  about  carding  &  spinning      I 
explained  how  cards  were  made  in  the  United  State's  bY 
machinery,  and  her  Majesty  gave  instant  orders  to  have 
the  machinery  introduced  into  her  manufactory  at  Cron- 
stadt      1  did  not  say  so,  but  was  sure  manufactures  fos- 
tered by  imperial  favor  alone  will  never  succeed.     There 
is  nothing  of  the  energy  &  economy  of  individual  interest 
nn?a  «  T01*™"*  a.re  s?rfs  receiving  only  a  scanty  modicum 
not  sufficient  to  maintain  their  families  in  any  sort  of  com- 

tW  Jif  W°meU  m  SerfcJ°m  Pa^  no  tribute>  neither  do 
ba/d,  tn  tLanj-WageS  rhen,tliey  accompany  their  hus- 
bands to  these  imperial  workshops;  altogether  it  is  a 
wretched  system.  Alexander  is  suspected  of%eing  opposed 
I1  ?™  actl°ns  a»d  saJings  are  watched  with  |reat  jeal- 
ousy by  the  nobles  whose  estates  consist  altogether  of  this  de- 
scription of  property.  Fortunes  are  estimated  by  the  number 
of  sou  s  a  proprietor  possesses.  These  souls  (the  men  only) 
t?fW  ]■  S6d  and  pa?  onl^  a  m°derate  tribute ;  but  not- 
Wfita^lng  th?  !lumer°us  hu*iane  ukases  for  their  especkl 

W  fk      7-  ?,?  thGlr  families  are  slaves  an<*  although  by 
law  adsmpti  glebv  are  sometimes  sold  without  the  land 


16  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

"  The  Emperor  said  to  me  one  day,  '  we  cannot  create  a 
mercantile  marine  and  have  been  hitherto  entirely  depend- 
ant upon  England  for  the  transportation  of  our  produce. 
We  now  hope  the  United  States  will  relieve  us  from  this 
dependance,  and  are  therefore  anxious  to  encourage  your 
shipping  and  to  form  the  closest  commercial  relations  with 
you.  You  must  say  so  to  your  President,'  which  I  accord- 
ingly did.  But  I  sought  the  reason  why  Russia  could  not 
possess  a  commercial  marine  and  soon  found  it  in  the 
nature  of  her  institutions.  If  a  ship  is  to  be  fitted  out  for 
a  foreign  port  the  ship's  husband  must  give  security  that 
the  sailors,  who  are  private  property  will  return  to  their 
owners.  A  condition  so  burdensome  puts  an  effectual  stop 
to  all  mercantile  enterprize  in  Russian  bottoms.  The  ships 
of  war  are  manned  either  by  the  Crown  peasants  or  by  draft 
as  the  army  is  filled.  By  the  way  no  army  is  recruited  with 
so  little  trouble.  Orders  are  extended  to  the  Landed  pro- 
prietors to  furnish  on  a  given  day  so  many  per  cent,  of  their 
vassals  of  a  certain  age.  The  poor  serfs  are  marched  to  the 
rendezvous  and  on  the  appointed  day  received  by  the  re- 
cruiting officer,  shaved,  uniformed  and  speedily  converted 
under  the  rudest  discipline  into  a  regular  soldier  of  won- 
derful endurance  and  great  passive  courage. 

"  There  is  in  St.  Petersburg  a  college  of  foreign  affairs 
where  those  who  are  destined  to  conduct  the  civil  and  political 
affairs  of  the  country  are  educated.  It  ensures  some  fitness 
and  a  steady  undeviating  policy  in  the  government  as  some 
clever  men  have  been  brought  up  here.  I  distinguished 
young  Count  Nesselrode  and  Count  Lieven  among  the 
number— Dolgorouki,  but  why  should  I  repeat  these  Rus- 
sian names  which  you  will  never  retain  nor  care^  about 
even  if  they  should  hereafter  become  conspicuous  in  his- 
tory. In  this  country  to  have  rank  at  Court  it  is  not  suffi- 
cient to  be  born  the  son  of  a  Knas  or  Prince  the  Russians 
have  translated  the  word.  A  Knas  is  in  most  respects  like 
the  ancient  Scotch  Laird— chief  of  a  clan,  but  the  Knas's 
clan  are  more  slaves  than  the  highlanders  ever  were.  Prince 
indeed!  All  the  sons  &  daughters  of  these  hereditary 
landholders  are  called  Prince  &  Princess  which  multiplies 
the  number  of  these  titles  inconveniently— Counts  are  more 
rare.  They  are  later  creations  since  Peter  the  Great  and 
copied  from  the  German;  Graf  &  Graffen  serving  to  des- 
ignate the  numerous  tribe  in  both  countries.  Well  neither 
Prince  or  Count  take  rank  at  Court  or  dare  drive  about 
the  streets  of  St.  Petersburg  or  Moscow  in  a  coach  &  four 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  17 

unless  they  have  served  in  some  civil  or  military  capacity 
up  to  the  rank  of  Major.  All  rank  having  relation  to  the 
military.  My  excellent  friend  Count  Gregory  OrlofF,  a  Sena- 
tor &  Privy  Counsellor,  is  a  Lieutenant-General  although  he 
never  saw  an  army  except  at  a  grand  review. 

"I  have  seen  a  magnificent  display  of  the  Imperial 
troops,  20,000  men  of  all  arms  drawn  up  &  maneuvre- 
ing  on  the  solid  ice  of  the  Neva.  You  have  no  idea  of 
the  imposing  appearance  of  such  an  array.  Horse,  foot 
&  artillery  perfectly  appointed  thundering  away  upon  the 
smooth  plain  of  the  river.  The  cold  was  too  intense  for 
the  troops  to  remain  out  long,  so  that  the  solemn  impression 
of  the  spectacle  rested  pleasingly  on  the  imagination.  We 
have  heard  of  the  battles  of  Pultusk  and  Preusse  Eylau. 
The  Russians  claim  the  victory  and  have  chaunted  Te 
Deum  ;  but  there  is  an  air  of  consternation  about  the  Court 
which  induces  me  to  fear  the  worst.  The  Emperor  too 
said  to  me  that  he  would  make  peace  under  the  walls  of 
Tobolsk ;  which  looks  like  an  expectation  of  being  driven 
out  of  his  capital  by  the  arch  fiend  as  Buonaparte  is  de- 
nominated here  in  common  parlance.  The  common  people 
look  upon  him  as  the  devil  incarnate  for  he  has  been  ex- 
communicated in  the  Greek  churches  of  the  Empire. 

"  The  Emperor  is  about  to  depart  and  draw  nearer  the 
frontier.  This  movement  I  find  fills  his  most  sagacious 
friends  with  fear.  If  he  joins  the  army  his  courage  will 
expose  him  to  danger  &  they  dread  his  Eldest  Brother 
Constantine.  He  is  indeed  a  fiend,  and  with  a  government 
such  as  this  the  only  alternative  would  be  to  repeat  the 
tragedy  of  the  death  of  Paul.  Again  those  who  know 
Alexander  best  say  that  he  will  succumb  in  case  of  renewed 
reverses  and  make  peace  with  France.  We  shall  see.  The 
Emperor  told  me  he  was  going  &  spoke  right  manfully. 
He  sent  for  me  to  dinner  at  the  palace  and  after  it  was  over 
took  mehy  the  arm  and  walked  into  an  adjoining  apartment. 
I  am  a  little  deaf  you  know  said  he  &  want  to  talk  to  you 
confidentially.  He  put  many  pertinent  questions  about  our 
country  &  our  system  &  after  hearing  my  replies  said 
emphatically  well  that  is  a  glorious  form  of  gov*.  &  if  I 
were  not  an  Emperor  I  would  be  a  Republican,  meaning 
of  course  that  if  he  were  not  an  Autocrat,  a  sovereign  per 
se  he  would  be  one  of  the  sovereigns.  He  then  said  that  it 
was  a  pleasant  thing  to  converse  with  a  man  who  had  no 
fear  of  offending  &  no  favor  to  ask  or  expect,  but  that  he 
wished  to  change  these  relations  with  regard  to  me  and 

2 


18  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

would  gladly  see  me  enter  his  service  either  civil  or  mili- 
tary. Seeing  me  about  to  reply  &  reading  hesitation  in 
my  looks  he  continued  execute  your  project,  see  the  Em- 
pire, acquire  the  language,  study  the  people  &  when  we 
meet  again  let  me  hear  your  determination;  and  so  we 
parted.  The  prospect  is  a  brilliant  one  but  somehow  I 
cannot  reconcile  it  to  my  sense  of  duty  to  abandon  my 
country." 

In  March,  1807,  Mr.  Poinsett,  accompanied  by  Lord  Roy- 
ston,  began  his  journey  to  the  southeastern  provinces  of 
Russia.  They  were  furnished  by  the  government  with 
every  facility  for  travelling  in  safety  through  the  wild 
regions  on  the  borders  of  the  Caspian  and  the  Black  Seas, 
being  specially  recommended  to  the  care  of  the  Russian 
commanders  in  that  quarter.  They  reached  Moscow  after 
a  journey  of  five  days,  suffering  intensely  from  the  cold,  and 
travelling  in  a  conveyance  which  Mr.  Poinsett  says,  "  rolled 
and  pitched  like  a  vessel  in  a  choppy  head  sea,"  the  motion 
at  times  making  them  quite  sea-sick.  At  Moscow  they  saw 
what  few  Americans  have  ever  seen, — that  wonderful  city 
in  its  strange  Oriental  aspect,  before  it  was  destroyed  by  fire 
after  its  conquest  by  the  French  in  1812.  From  Moscow 
they  passed  on  eastwardly  to  the  ancient  Tartar  city  of 
Kasan,  and  thence  down  the  Volga  to  Astrachan  at  its  mouth. 
Here  they  entered  upon  the  threshold  of  a  world  totally  new 
and  strange  to  a  Western  traveller.  That  portion  of  Russia 
which  they  proposed  to  visit  had  been  recently  annexed  to 
the  Empire,  the  eastern  part,  or  that  between  the  Caspian 
and  the  Caucasian  Mountains,  having  been  taken  from  the 
Persians  by  Peter  the  Great,  while  the  western,  that  between 
those  mountains  and  the  Black  Sea,  known  as  Georgia,  had 
been  conquered  from  the  Turks  by  the  Empress  Catherine. 
These  districts  were  then  occupied  by  Russian  troops,  and 
they  were  inhabited  by  wild  and  savage  tribes  of  shepherds, 
who  were  still  in  a  great  measure  ruled  by  their  own  khans, 
and  retained  many  of  their  old  habits  and  usages.  They 
stood  to  Russia  very  nearly  in  the  same  relation  which  Rus- 
sia had  once  held  to  their  forefathers,  the  Tartar  tribes,  who 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  19 

had  overrun  their  territory, — that  is,  they  were  tributary 
states.  The  country  which  they  occupied  between  the  Cas- 
pian and  the  Black  Seas  formed  the  route  which  the  larger 
portion  of  the  original  Aryan  stock  had  taken  in  prehistoric 
times  in  their  migration  from  Asia  to  Europe.  Many  traces 
of  their  most  ancient  manners,  customs,  and  religions  still 
remained.  The  population  was  a  strange  medley  of  races 
and  tribes,  retaining  in  many  cases  the  various  forms  of 
religious  worship  which  their  fathers  had  brought  with 
them  from  their  original  homes.  There  were  collected  in 
this  out-of-the-way  and  comparatively  small  territory  not 
only  Russians,  but  Cossacks,  Calmucks,  Tartars,  Hindoos, 
Persians,  Greeks,  and  Armenians.  Each  race  lived  apart, 
and  preserved  some  of  its  original  distinctive  peculiarities. 
The  travellers  visited,  for  instance,  the  Hindoo  temple  of 
Brahma  at  Astrachan.  There  they  saw,  what  has  often  been 
observed  by  travellers  in  India,  a  form  of  worship  and  ritual 
resembling  in  some  respects  that  of  the  Roman  Catholic  mass. 
Buddhists  were  also  to  be  found  among  the  Calmuck  Tar- 
tars, and  the  worship  of  the  Lamas.  They  were  there  shown 
the  famous  prayer-machine,  consisting  of  a  barrel,  on  which 
were  pasted  written  prayers,  which,  when  revolved  with 
great  rapidity  in  the  face  of  the  idols  placed  before  it, 
prayed  as  much  and  as  effectually,  in  the  opinion  of  their 
priests,  in  one  minute  as  could  be  done  in  the  ordinary 
method  in  a  whole  day.  Later  on,  near  Baku,  on  the 
southern  shore  of  the  Caspian,  the  seat  of  the  naphtha-  or 
petroleum-wells,  and  now  the  centre  of  a  vast  trade  in  that 
article  with  all  parts  of  Europe  and  Asia,  they  encountered 
the  Guebres,  or  Fire- Worshippers,  who  were  Persian  pil- 
grims, who  had  travelled  a  long  distance  in  order  to  perform 
their  devotions  in  the  "  Land  of  Eternal  Fire." 

At  Astrachan  the  travellers  began  to  wonder  why  an 
empire  so  autocratic  as  that  of  Russia  permitted  such  a 
diversity  of  opinions  and  usages  in  matters  of  religion  as 
prevailed  there,  and  this  wonder  was  increased  as  they 
penetrated  farther  into  the  country.  They  saw  nothing 
which  they  were  in  the  habit  of  regarding  as  distinctively 


20  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

Russian  except  the  garrisons  intended  to  preserve  the  peace 
and  obedience  of  the  country.  At  Astrachan  they  remained 
about  three  weeks,  and,  although  the  plague  was  raging  in 
the  town,  and  even  in  the  quarantine  grounds,  their  curi- 
osity to  see  all  the  strange  and  novel  things  to  be  found  in 
the  neighborhood  was  boundless,  and  they  were  not  deterred 
by  fear  of  infection  from  visiting  them  all. 

The  Caucasian  provinces  to  the  south  of  Astrachan  were 
inhabited  by  warlike  pastoral  tribes,  still  ruled  by  khans 
who  were  practically  independent.  The  Russian  authori- 
ties considered  travelling  through  this  region  dangerous, 
especially  where  the  travellers  were  two  strangers,  who 
claimed  that  their  only  motive  for  visiting  the  country  was 
curiosity, — a  motive  which  the  natives  could  not,  of  course, 
appreciate.  They  were  provided,  therefore,  with  an  escort 
of  three  hundred  Cossacks.  They  were  advised,  it  is  said, 
by  one  of  the  khans  whom  they  met  at  an  early  stage  of 
their  journey,  to  dismiss  their  escort,  and  to  trust  to  Tartar 
hospitality  for  their  safety  and  kind  treatment.  Fortunately 
for  them,  they  did  not  follow  his  advice,  as  it  proved  that 
their  guards  were  more  to  be  trusted  than  some  of  the  wild 
chieftains  whom  they  met.  They  reached  Derbend  (Portal 
Caspian)  in  safety,  and  thence  went  on  to  Baku,  then  a  dis- 
trict regarded  with  superstitious  terror  as  the  land  of  eternal 
fire,  and  now  converted  into  a  place  whence  a  large  portion 
of  the  civilized  world  draws  its  supplies  of  material  for  artifi- 
cial light.  The  travellers,  of  course,  met  with  some  curious 
adventures  on  their  way,  and  of  these  Mr.  Poinsett  gives  in 
one  of  his  letters  the  following  lively  account : 

"...  From  the  constant  state  of  warfare  in  which  this 
country  has  been  involved  the  Peasantry  invariably  at  our 
approach  took  to  the  woods,  but  after  a  little  while  finding 
that  their  houses  were  not  burnt  they  returned,  and  the 
Mahamandar  presented  to  the  principal  the  firman  for 
quarters  and  a  supply  of  provisions,  which  generally  pro- 
duced great  murmurings  and  generally  ended  by  the  Maha- 
mandar beating  them  most  unmercifully,  this  argumentum 
baculorum  invariably  produced  a  supper.  Our  quarters 
always  consisted  of  either  a  scaffold  erected  on  four  poles 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  21 

on  the  roof  of  a  house,  the  inside  being   uninhabitable. 
The  houses  of  the  Peasantry  are  built  of  clay  or  unburnt 
brick.     We  had  proceeded  thro'  a  well  cultivated  Country 
having  a  view  of  Caspian  on  one  side  and  the  great  chain 
of  Mount  Caucasus  on  the  other  the  summits  covered  with 
snow.     On  the  third  morning  the  alarm  was  given  that  a 
troop  of  horsemen  were  advancing  towards  us,  we  arranged 
our  little  troop  and  prepared  to  receive  them.     When  they 
were  within  musquet  shot  the  Principal  of  them  advanced 
and  said  that  he  was  chief  of  several  villages  near  us  and 
entreated  us  with  much  importunity  to  accompany  him  to 
the  nearest  and  spend  the  remainder  of  the  day.     We  con- 
sented, and  he  immediately  dispatched  a  Courier  to  have 
every  thing  prepared  for  our  reception.     We  spent  the  re- 
mainder of  the  day  with  him  and  he  entertained  us  in  the 
best  manner  the  village  afforded.     In  the  morning  when  we 
wished  to  proceed  we  missed  the  horses  of  our  Conductor 
and  Persian  Escort;  fortunately  our  own  and  the  Copahs 
were  picketed  under  a  guard.    Our  treacherous  host  had  dis- 
appeared.  Whilst  we  were  deliberating  what  was  to  be  done, 
he  sent  us  a  message  to  say  that  as  we  were  travelling  with- 
out the  escort  of  his  Khan  he  should  not  permit  us  to  pro- 
ceed any  farther,  and  if  we  attempted  it  by  force  he  would 
raise  the  whole  Country ;  he  appeared  at  the  same  time  at 
the  head  of  a  body  of  horse.     To  attempt  to  proceed  would 
have  been  folly,  to  retreat  to  Derbend  near  two  days  journey 
was  equally  impracticable.     We  therefore  resolved  to  gain 
Kouba  the  residence  of  the  Khan  about  thirty  miles  from 
the  village.    I  accordingly  ordered  the  Copahs  to  seize  all  the 
horses  in  the  village  and  mounted  the  Persians  in  the  best 
manner  possible  and  we  began  our  march,  the  Beg  and  his 
followers  hovered  about  us  for  some  time  without  daring  to 
attack  us.     He  at  length  advanced,  and  demanded  a  Parley. 
I  met  him  with  only  our  Interpreter.     He  asked  where  we 
intended  to  go.     I  told  him  very  calmly  to  the  Khan  of 
Kouba  to  complain  of  his  robbery  and  insolence.     He  said 
all  he  wished  was  that  we  should  go  to  the  Khan  and  that 
he  would  accompany  us.     When  we  were  within  five  miles 
of  Kouba  he  again  rode  up,  and  said  that  if  we  would  say 
nothing  of  what  had  passed  to  the  Khan  he  would  return 
the  horses.     We  told  him  that  we  would  make  no  conditions 
with  such  a  villain.      He  hesitated  for  some  time  but  at 
length  returned  the  horses  and  his  troop  dispersed. 

"  Upon  our  arrival  at  Kouba  we  were  conducted  to  the 
market  Place  into  a  large  open  Piazza  where  Carpets  were 


22  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

spread  for  us  and  we  were  desired  to  repose  until  the  Khan 
was  prepared  to  receive  us.  The  whole  town  of  Kouba  col- 
lected in  the  market  place  to  see  European  travellers  a  sight 
most  rare  in  Kouba.  The  officers  of  the  Khan  household 
were  obliged  to  exercise  their  sticks  to  keep  them  from 
crowding  into  the  Piazza.  After  waiting  more  than  an 
hour  in  grand  exhibition,  the  gentleman  waited  upon  us  to 
say  that  the  Khan  was  ready  to  receive  us. 

"  The  Khan  was  seated  in  a  large  Persian  summer  house 
an  elevation  of  three  stories  without  walls.    On  the  third  floor 
the  Khan  was  seated  surrounded  by  all  his  court.    Without 
the  circle  his  guard  were  stationed  leaning  upon  their  fusils 
reversed.    The  Khan  made  a  sign  to  us  to  seat  ourselves  near 
him  and  welcomed  us  to  Kouba.     I  immediately  harangued 
him  upon  the  occasion  of  our  coming  to  the  Court,  detailed 
the  whole   conduct  of  the   Beg  and   demanded  to   know 
whether  it  was  by  his  orders  that  we  had  been  treated  in 
that  infamous  manner  and  ended  by  declaring  that  it  would 
be  an  eternal  stain  to  the  bright  reputation  of  Chjek-ali 
Khan  that  strangers  had  met  with  such  outrages  in  the 
Khannate  of  Kouba.     The  astonishment  of  the  whole  court 
when  this  was  interpreted  to  them  is  not  to  be  described. 
The  Khan  disclaimed  all  knowledge  of  the  transaction,  ex- 
pressed great  regret  at  our  treatment,  but  begged  that  now 
we  were  at  Kouba  we  would  no  longer  think  of  the  disagree- 
able Circumstances  which  had  brought  us  there,  but  en- 
deavour to  divert  ourselves  in  the  best  manner  possible.    He 
then  became  very  inquisitive  asking  questions  dictated  by 
the  profoundest  ignorance.     We  were  obliged  to  give  him  a 
long  geographical  lecture  which  he  made  his  secretary  write. 
Upon  being  told  that  I  was  from  America  he  asked  me  if 
the  King  of  America  was  powerful  among  the  Kings  of 
Europe  and  if  we  joined  the  French  Empire.     After  a  long 
explanation  he  insisted  upon  knowing  the  name  of  our  Shah 
and  Thomas  Jefferson  is  on  record  at  the  court  of  Chiek-ali 
Khan  of  Kouba  as  Shah  of  America.     In  the  meantime  the 
servants  spread  cotton  Cloths  round  the  room  and  placed 
before  each  guest  a  thin  piece  of  bread  near  a  yard  long 
which  served  likewise  the  purpose  of  napkins  for  they  eat 
with  their  fingers  and  grease  their  hands  and  heard  most 
filthily.     They  next  brought  water  to  wash  our  hands,  and 
placed  before  us  different  meats  cut  small,  with  rice.     The 
Khan's  Physician  sat  next  to  him  and  pointed  out  what  he 
was  to  eat  and  served  him  with  wine  of  which  he  drank 
plentifully,  obliging  us  to  pledge  him  each  time  observing 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  23 

that  he  was  a  strict  observer  of  the  laws  of  Mahomnied  ex- 
cept in  this  one  instance  but  he  could  not  refrain  from  wine. 
Whenever  any  one  drank  '  Khan  Saluna'  or  the  health  of  the 
Khan  re-echoed  round  the  room ;  When  he  drank  himself 
it  was  a  horrid  tintamarre  for  this  ceremony  was  repeated 
four  times.     Whilst  we  dined,  some  musicians  and  buffoons 
entered  the  room  and  the  Physician  came  to  inform  me  that 
one  of  them  would  play  the  devil  for  our  diversion.     The 
droll  put  on  a  fools'  Cap  with  bells  and  began  dancing  and 
singing  with  such  antic  gestures  as  put  the  whole  court  into 
a  roar  of  laughter.     Then  ensued  a  Contest  between  two 
musicians  who  inflating  their  cheeks  produced  such  long 
shrill  notes  from  an  octave  pipe  as  excited  universal  applause. 
Their  music  consisted  of  these  pipes,  a  three  stringed  fiddle, 
two  guitars  a  small  drum  and  two  tambours  de  basque. 
They  have  little  idea  of  time  and  have  no  notes,  whilst  they 
played,  the  whole  Court  beat  time  or  rather  clapped  their 
hands.    During  the  contest  between  the  pipers  which  should 
produce  the  longest  and  shrillest  notes,  several  girls  entered, 
elegantly  dressed  after  the  Persian  manner,  long  large  red 
pantaloons  which  cover  even  the  instep,  a  close  silk  jacket, 
and  over  it  a  short  robe  open  in  front,  their  heads  covered 
with  a  vail.     They  took  their  seats  at  the  lower  end  of  the 
room  and  uncovered  their  faces.     They  were  generally  hand- 
some &  highly  painted  which  is  a  general  "custom  in  the 
east.    As  the  Pipe  was  handed  constantly  round  they  smoked 
in  their  turn  with  great  gout.     They  danced  and  sung  alter- 
nately, their  dancing  resembled  that  of  the  Spanish  women, 
very  little  motion  of  the  feet,  but  much  graceful  action  of 
the  arms  and  body.     Their  singing  was  a  horrid  squalling 
in  loud  falsett  voice.     They  hid  their  faces  which  was  neces- 
sary for  to  produce  those  sounds.    The  contortions  must  have 
been  great.     The  Khan  who  had  drank  much  wine  became 
very  facetious,  and  amused  himself  with  drumming  time 
upon  his  physicians  head,  and  hitting  his  prime  minister 
great  thumps  on  the  back  to  the  great  diversion  of  the  court. 
During  these  entertainments  fresh  dishes  were  constantly 
brought  in,  some  in  a  singular  manner,  the  roast  always  on  a 
long  stick,  which  the  Ecuyer  tranchant  shoved  off  into  our 
plates.     As  this  entertainment  had  lasted  from  five  till  long 
after  midnight  we  thought  it  time  to  withdraw  and  accorcE 
ingly  took  our  leave  retiring  to  our  piazza,  where  we  passed 
the  remainder  of  the  night. 

"In  the  morning  we  "performed  our  toilette  before  hun- 
dreds even  in  the  market  place.    When  we  had  breakfasted, 


2-4  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

one  of  the  officers  led  before  us  two  handsome  horses  which 
he  presented  in  his  masters  name.  We  shortly  after  had 
our  audience  of  leave  in  which  the  Khan  was  particularly 
solicitous  that  we  should  mention  him  in  foreign  countries, 
and  was  particularly  gratified  on  being  assured  that  wherever 
we  went  we  would  always  speak  of  the  magnificence  of 
Chiek-Ali  Khan.  We  left  the  town  of  Kouba  which  is  for- 
tified with  a  single  wall  and  delightfully  situated  in  a  vast 
valley,  having  a  view  of  Mount  Caucasus.  As  we  had  an 
escort  from  the  Khan  and  his  firman  we  continued  our 
journey  in  perfect  security.  The  Khannat  of  Kouba  is  the 
most  beautiful  and  fertile  country  we  had  hitherto  seen. 
We  stopped  the  first  night  at  a  village  where,  as  usual,  the 
Inhabitants  fled  at  our  approach  and  upon  their  return  were 
most  unmercifully  beaten.  I  assured  these  unfortunate 
people  that  I  would  pay  them  and  made  my  interpreter 
offer  them  privately  money,  they  refused  however  saying 
that  should  their  Khan  be  apprized  of  their  having  received 
money  from  us  they  would  be  severely  punished.  Once  in- 
deed an  Armenian  declared  that  there  were  no  provisions 
in  the  village  and  upon  my  giving  him  money  rode  off  with 
the  declared  intention  of  purchasing  every  thing  necessary 
from  the  next  village,  but  we  saw  no  more  of  him  and  upon 
his  comrades  being  beaten  they  produced  our  usual  supper 
which  consisted  of  a  Pilau.  The  ensuing  day  we  left  the 
Khannat  of  Kouba  and  entered  that  of  Baku  a  gloomy 
desert,  bleak  barren  hills  sloping  to  the  Caspian  scarcely 
covered  with  a  blade  of  grass. 

"  The  Russian  commander  received  us  very  politely  and 
assigned  us  very  good  quarters,  we  were  obliged  to  remain 
here  several  days  to  recruit  our  sick  for  the  fatigue  of  riding 
on  horseback  and  sleeping  in  the  air  had  proved  too  much 
for  two  of  our  servants. 

"  The  harbor  of  Baku  is  formed  by  a  deep  bay  and  the 
entrance  protected  by  two  islands.  It  is  the  best  and  indeed 
may  be  said  to  be  the  only  port  in  the  Caspian.  The  navi- 
gation of  this  sea  is  rendered  extremely  dangerous  by  the 
want  of  ports,  the  numerous  sand  banks,  and  frequent  oc- 
currence of  gales  of  wind,  which,  altho'  there  is  no  tide,  raise 
the  sea  to  a  great  height,  and  occasions  an  overflow  of  the 
adjacent  low  lands. 

"  General  Gouvief  accompanied  us  to  view  the  sources  of 
Naptha  which  are  within  15  miles  of  Baku  and  constitute  its 
chief  branch  of  commerce.  On  our  approach  to  the  source, 
the  earth  for  a  considerable  distance  round  was  covered  with 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  E.  Poinsett.  25 

a  thin  stratum  of  ]STaptba.  The  large  source  is  of  some  depth 
and  the  petroleum  is  brought  up  in  skins  and  deposited 
in  large  reservoirs  whence  it  is  conveyed  in  skins  to  Sha- 
mackie  and  other  parts  of  Persia.  It  is  used  universally  by 
the  Persians  for  their  lamps,  and  especially  in  the  manufac- 
tories of  silk,  the  people  imagining  that  it  is  the  only  li«-ht 
they  can  use  without  destroying  the  worm.  There  are  some 
small  villages  near  these  works,  the  machinery  is  the  same 
used  by  the  Persians  and  is  as  bad  as  can  be  imao-ined 
I  here  are  some  smaller  sources  of  white  naptha  near  this 
but  the  grey  or  black  naptha  is  the  most  abundant  and  the 
most  productive." 

From  Baku  the  travellers  crossed  the  country  to  Tifflis, 
in  Georgia.     Thence  they  went  to  Armenia,  and  were  pres- 
ent at  the  unsuccessful  siege  of  Erivan  by  the  Russians.     As 
war  was  then  waging  between  Russia  and  the  Ottoman  Porte 
they  were,  therefore,  unable  to  reach  Constantinople,  but 
returned  northward  to  Moscow  and  St.  Petersburg,  the  first 
portion  of  the  journey  being  through  so  sickly  a  country 
that  out  of  the  party  of  nine  who  had  left  Moscow  together 
for  their  expedition  only  three  returned  alive.     The  health 
of  Mr.  Poinsett  suffered  so  much  during  this  journey  that 
he  was  obliged  to  remain  several  months  in  St.  Petersburg 
before  he  gained  sufficient  strength  to  travel  to  the  waters 
of  Toeplitz  and  Carlsbad. 

On  his  way  thither  he  passed  through  Koenigsberg,  where 
the  Court  of  conquered  and  devastated  Prussia,  driven  from 
Berlin  by  the  French,  then  resided.     He  was  presented  to 
the  King  and  to  the  celebrated  Louisa,  Queen  of  Prussia  (the 
mother  of  the  late  Emperor  of  Germany),  celebrated  alike 
for  her  beauty  and  her  misfortunes.     It  was  then  generally 
thought,  and  the  story  even  now  is  commonly  believed,  that 
the  Queen  had  been  insulted  by  the  Emperor  Napoleon  while 
interceding  with  him  for  mercy  towards  the  luckless  country 
whose  armies  he  had  destroyed.    The  statement  that  she  had 
been  insulted  she  positively  denied,  according  to  Mr.  Poin- 
sett, and  said  that  she  had  no  other  cause  of  complaint  than 
that  the  Emperor  refused  to  grant  her  prayer  that  he  would 
spare  her  country.    The  King  complained  that  thf-  Emperor 


26  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

Alexander,  who  had  urged  him  to  embark  in  this  unhappy 
war,  had  accepted  from  Napoleon  a  portion  of  the  dismem- 
bered Prussian  territory. 

At  Toeplitz  he  met  the  Prince  de  Ligne,  and  Mr.  Poinsett, 
true  to  his  instinct  which  led  him  to  search  out  all  the  prom- 
inent men  of  his  time  wherever  he  found  them,  was  much 
interested  and  instructed  by  the  view  he  gave  him  of  public 
affairs  at  that  critical  period.  The  peculiarity  of  the  Prince's 
position  was  this :  while  horror-stricken  with  the  spread  of 
revolutionary  ideas,  and  the  ascendency  of  the  French  arms 
in  Europe,  he  was  disgusted  because  Austria  had  not  placed 
him  in  command  of  the  armed  force  designed  to  combat 
them.  No  man  in  Europe  had  at  that  time  a  higher  repu- 
tation for  brilliant  qualities  and  great  services  than  he,  but 
he  had  lost  his  influence  at  the  Austrian  Court  on  the  death 
of  Joseph  II. 

In  the  spring  of  1808,  Mr.  Poinsett  having  recovered  his 
health,  went  through  Germany  to  Paris.  Never  was  that 
city  more  brilliant  than  at  this  time,  and  nowhere  could  be 
found  a  greater  number  of  men  who  had  gained  European 
renown  by  their  services  in  the  great  Continental  wars.  One 
of  the  most  distinguished  of  the  soldiers  of  Napoleon  was 
Massena  (Prince  of  Essling),  who  previous  to  the  French 
Revolution  had  been  an  instructor  in  fencing  of  Mr.  Joseph 
Allen  Smith,  who  had  given  Mr.  Poinsett  a  letter  of  intro- 
duction to  him.  He  seems  to  have  been  very  kind  to  Mr. 
Poinsett,  and  presented  him  to  Clausel,  afterwards  Marshal 
of  France,  and  to  many  other  distinguished  French  soldiers. 
Mr.  Poinsett  tells  a  curious  story  illustrating  the  relations  of 
Massena  with  Napoleon.  In  a  private  interview  between 
them  a  gun  was  suddenly  heard  to  explode  in  the  imperial 
cabinet.  The  attendants  rushed  in,  and  found  Massena 
bathed  in  blood,  while  the  Emperor  explained  that  the  gun 
had  been  discharged  by  accident.  The  rumor  spread,  how- 
ever, that  Napoleon,  in  a  fit  of  passion,  had  tried  to  murder 
the  Marshal.  Mr.  Poinsett  paid  a  visit  to  Massena,  who 
was  confined  to  the  house  by  his  wound.  He  spoke  of  the 
rumor,  and  Massena  told  him  it  was  well  founded,  that  the 


'i 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  27 

discharge  of  the  gun  was  not  accidental,  adding,  "  The 
cursed  little  fool  could  not  even  shoot  straight,  or  he  would 
have  killed  me." 

Mr.  Poinsett  was  present  (as  he  always  seems  to  have 
been,  with  his  extraordinary  luck,  on  every  important  occa- 
sion) at  the  celebrated  interview  between  Napoleon  and 
Count  Metternich,  the  Austrian  Ambassador,  at  the  Tuil- 
eries  in  1808,  when  the  French  Emperor  publicly  threatened 
Austria  that,  if  she  continued  to  arm  her  subjects,  he  would 
crush  her  beyond  the  power  of  recovery,  a  threat  which 
Napoleon  supposed  he  had  carried  out  when  he  dictated  a 
second  time  peace  in  the  Austrian  capital  and  married  an 
Austrian  princess. 

While  Mr.  Poinsett  was  residing  in  Paris  there  occurred 
the  memorable  incident  of  the  attack  in  time  of  profound 
peace  by  the  British  war-ship  "  Leopard"  upon  the  Ameri- 
can frigate  "  Chesapeake,"  the  "  Leopard"  firing  a  broad- 
side into  the  "  Chesapeake,"  and  compelling  her  to  surren- 
der certain  of  her  crew,  who  were  claimed  to  be  deserters 
from  the  English  navy.  Like  most  of  his  countrymen,  Mr. 
Poinsett  regarded  war  with  England  as  the  inevitable  result 
of  this  deplorable  outrage.  He  lost  no  time  in  hurrying 
home  and  offering  his  services  to  the  government.  He 
hoped  to  receive  the  appointment  of  quartermaster-general, 
that  being  the  office  for  which  he  deemed  himself  best  qual- 
ified. He  failed,  however,  to  secure  the  position,  and  indeed 
the  immediate  prospect  of  war  was  removed  by  the  disavowal 
on  the  part  of  the  English  government  of  the  act  of  the  com- 
mander of  the  "  Leopard"  and  the  punishment  of  the  admiral 
who  had  ordered  it. 

President  Madison,  who  had  been  very  much  impressed 
with  the  capacity  of  Mr.  Poinsett,  then  invited  him  to  go  to 
South  America  on  a  secret  and  confidential  mission.  The 
provinces  of  Buenos  Ayres  on  the  east  and  that  of  Chili  on 
the  west  side  of  the  Andes  had  risen  in  revolt  against  the 
Spanish  government,  and  had  established  provisional  Juntas, 
who  were  for  the  time  being  the  de  facto  rulers  of  the  country. 
Mr.  Poinsett's  instructions  were  to  ascertain  how  firm  a  foun- 


28  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

elation  these  new  governments  had,  and  if  he  found  that  their 
existence  was  likely  to  be  permanent,  he  was  to  negotiate 
treaties  of  commerce  with  them.     Mr.  Poinsett  was  obliged 
to  dissemble  the  object  of  his  mission,  as  the  English,  who 
were  numerous  and  powerful  at  Buenos  Ayres,  were  very 
jealous  of  the  interference  of  any  other  power  seeking  to 
share  in  the  rich  harvest  which  they  hoped  that  they  alone 
would  gather  when  the  Spanish  restrictive  colonial  policy 
was  abandoned.    By  skill  and  address,  however,  not  unmin- 
^led  with  a  certain  amount  of  personal  danger,  Mr.  Poinsett 
reached  Buenos  Ayres  by  way  of  Rio  de  Janeiro,  and  there, 
notwithstanding  the  violent  opposition  of  the  English  mer- 
chants, he  concluded  a  favorable  commercial  treaty  with  the 
revolutionary  authorities. 

To  complete  his  mission  it  was  necessary  for  him  to  cross 
the  Andes  and  negotiate  a  treaty  with  the  authorities  of 
Chili.     This  province  was  then  governed  by  the  popular 
Junta,  while   Peru  was  still   under  the   authority  of  the 
Spanish  Viceroy.     The  two  provinces  were  engaged  in  war 
with  each  other,  so  that  until  the  war  ended  it  was  impossi- 
ble to  tell  whether  it  would  be  practicable  to  conclude  such 
a  treaty  as  Mr.  Poinsett  was  instructed  to  make.     There 
seemed,  indeed,  little  probability  that  hostilities  would  soon 
be  brought  to  a  close.     Mr.  Poinsett  became  irritated  by  the 
helpless  inactivity  which  he  was  obliged  to  maintain.    Fired 
by  the  example  of  Carera,  the  leader  of  the  Chilian  army, 
and  yielding  to  his  influence,  he  was  induced  by  him  to 
accept  the  command  of  a  division  of  his  army.     He  could, 
it  is  true,  find  nothing  in  his  instructions  as  Charge"  d' Affaires 
to  justify  such  an  act,  but  he  never  was  idle  or  inactive  when 
the  interests  of  his  country  required  him  to  confront  per- 
sonal danger,  and  he  did  not  hesitate  to  take  the  responsi- 
bility.   Shortly  after  he  had  assumed  command,  he  learned, 
through  an  intercepted  letter  to  the  Viceroy  of  Peru,  that  the 
commandant  at  Talcahuano,  on  the  bay  of  Concepcion,  had 
seized  eleven  American  whalers  which  had  touched  there 
for  supplies,  and  that  the  crews  of  these  vessels  would  be 
sent  to  Callao  as  prisoners  as  soon  as  a  "  set  of  irons  could 


• 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  29 

be  completed  for  the  purpose  of  securing  the  men."     He 
immediately  put  his  army  in  motion  for  Talcahuano  and 
completely  surprised  the  Peruvian  detachment  in  charge  of 
the  vessels.     He  then  posted  his  artillery  in  a  commanding 
position  and  demanded  its  unconditional  surrender  to  the 
Junta  of  Chili.     His  demand  was  at  once  complied  with, 
the  Peruvian  commander  who  "  was  completing  the  irons" 
was  made  prisoner  and  the  vessels  were  released.     It  is  not 
easy,  of  course,  to  describe  the  surprise  and  gratification  of 
the  American  captains  when  they  found  that  their  liberator 
was  one  of  their  own  countrymen,  exercising  his  functions 
as  Charge  d' Affaires  in  this  novel  and  efficient  way. 

While  Mr.  Poinsett  was  in  Chili  he  was  a  spectator  of 
one  of  the  most  memorable  combats  in  our  naval  history,  and 
indeed  almost  one  of  the  participants  in  it.     Captain  David 
Porter  was  in  the  neutral  port  of  Callao  with  the  "  Essex," 
considering  himself  in  such  a  place  out  of  all  danger  of  attack 
from  two  English  vessels,  the  "Phebe"  and  the  "Cherub," 
that  lay  close  beside  him.    Captain  Porter  had  made  a  most 
successful  cruise  in  the  "  Essex,"  destroying  almost  wholly 
the  English  whaling  fleet  In  the  Pacific.     He  was  about  to 
sail  for  home  with  Mr.  Poinsett  as  one  of  his  passengers, 
trusting  to  the  speed  of  his  vessel  to  outstrip  the  two  ships 
of  his  enemy.    Unfortunately  for  him  a  gale  occurred,  which 
injured  some  of  his  rigging,  just  as  he  was  off  the  port. 
He  was  about  putting  back  for  repairs  when  he  was  attacked 
by  both  English  ships,  and  a  battle  ensued  which,  whether 
we  consider  the  disparity  of  the  forces  engaged  or  the  con- 
spicuous  gallantry  with  which  the  "Essex"  was  defended  in 
a  hopeless  contest  of  more  than  three  hours,  is  hardly  paral- 
leled in  naval  history.     The  battle  was  fought  within  the 
range  of  a  fort  on  the  Chilian  shore,  and  Mr.  Poinsett  was 
sent  to  beg  the  commander  to  fire  on  the  English,  who  were 
violating  the  neutrality  of  his  country.     BuUhe  fear  of  the 
consequences  kept  the  Chilian  officer  quiet.     The  prisoners 
taken  in  the  "  Essex,"  including  Captain  Porter,  were  sent 
home  by  the  English  in  a  cartel,  but  permission  for  Mr. 
Poinsett  to  embark  with  them  was  positively  refused,  Cap- 


• 


30  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

tain  Hilyar  giving  as  a  reason  what,  under  the  circum- 
stances, was  a  high  compliment  to  Mr.  Poinsett,  declaring 
"  that  he  would  not  suffer  the  arch-enemy  of  England  to 
return  to  America  while  the  two  countries  were  at  war." 

Mr.  Poinsett,  nothing  daunted,  however,  recrossed  the 
Andes  while  they  were  covered  with  snow,  reached  Buenos 
Ayres  in  safety,  and  passing  down  the  Rio  de  la  Plata  in  a 
Portuguese  vessel,  and  running  the  British  blockade  of  the 
river,  was  at  last  safely  landed  in  the  island  of  Madeira. 
He  soon  made  his  way  to  the  United  States,  but  he  found 
that  peace  had  then  been  made  with  England,  so  that  there 
was  no  longer  any  hope  of  his  distinguishing  himself,  as  he 
had  always  longed  to  do,  in  the  military  service  of  his  country. 

On  his  return  home  he  did  not  seek,  as  he  well  might 
have  done,  repose  after  all  the  exciting  adventures  through 
which  he  had  passed.  His  active  and  enterprising  spirit 
found  a  large  field  for  the  development  of  its  energy  in  pro- 
jects for  improving  the  condition  of  his  native  State,  by  the 
construction  of  good  roads  and  water-courses  between  its 
widely-separated  parts.  He  was  appointed  Chairman  of  the 
Board  of  Public  Works,  made  many  suggestions  in  regard 
to  the  internal  improvements  of  the  State,  and  superin- 
tended the  construction  of  at  least  one  road  which  in  its 
day  was  regarded  as  a  model  for  a  work  of  that  kind, — the 
turnpike  through  Saluda  Gap. 

In  1821,  Mr.  Poinsett  was  elected  a  member  of  Congress 
from  the  Charleston  district.  He  took  a  prominent  part  in 
many  public  measures  of  great  importance,  but  his  influ- 
ence was  perhaps  strongest  on  the  question  of  recognizing 
the  new  republics  of  South  America,  concerning  which  his 
opinion,  based  upon  personal  experience,  was  singularly 
potent.  He  opposed  the  project  of  sending  a  commissioner 
to  Greece  until  that  country  was  at  least  de  facto  independent, 
in  a  speech  of  great  statesmanlike  force,  not  because  he  was 
without  sympathy  for  the  sufferings  which  the  Greeks  en- 
dured at  the  hands  of  the  Turks,  but  because  he  regarded 
the  measure  as  one  likely  to  serve  as  a  precedent  for  in- 
volving us  in  the  complications  of  European  politics. 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  JR.  Poinsett.  31 

In  the  year  1822  the  question  of  the  recognition  of  the 
independence  of  Mexico  by  our  Government  became  a  prac- 
tical one.  From  the  year  1811,  when  the  revolt  of  the 
Mexicans  against  the  Spanish  Crown  began,  a  number  of 
governments  which,  judging  by  their  short  duration,  can  be 
regarded  only  as  revolutionary,  had  ruled  that  portion  of  the 
country  from  which  the  Spanish  army  had  been  driven. 
The  insurgents  who  formed  these  governments  had  been  at 
last  subdued  by  the  Spanish  forces,  but  in  the  year  1821 
a  new  and  formidable  movement  took  place  to  establish 
the  independence  of  Mexico  under  Don  Augustin  Iturbide, 
who  had  been  an  officer  in  the  royal  army.  In  1822, 
Iturbide,  in  the  face  of  much  opposition,  was  proclaimed 
Emperor,  and  the  question  for  our  Government  was  to 
determine  whether,  in  view  of  all  the  revolutionary  dis- 
turbances which  had  preceded  his  accession,  he  was  so  sup- 
ported by  public  opinion  that  he  would  be  able  to  establish 
a  permanent  government  in  Mexico  and  thus  entitle  him  to 
a  recognition  on  our  part  as  the  de  facto  ruler  of  the  country. 
The  President  (Mr.  Monroe)  selected  Mr.  Poinsett  for  the 
delicate  and  responsible  duty  of  ascertaining  the  true  state 
of  affairs.  His  mission  to  Mexico  was  secret  and  confiden- 
tial, and  he  went  there  in  1822.  He  travelled  through 
many  districts  of  Mexico,  mingled  with  all  sorts  and  con- 
ditions of  people  and  with  men  of  every  party.  The  result 
of  his  observations,  so  far  as  he  thought  proper  to  make 
it  public,  appeared  in  a  book  called  "  Notes  on  Mexico," 
which  he  published  shortly  after  his  return.  It  contained 
the  best  and  indeed  the  only  trustworthy  account  of  Mexico 
which  had  appeared  in  the  English  language  up  to  that  time. 
His  familiarity  with  the  Spanish  language  and  his  long  ac- 
quaintance with  public  men  both  in  the  Old  "World  and  the 
New,  as  well  as  his  experience  with  people  who  "  get  up" 
revolutions  in  both  hemispheres,  gave  to  the  judgment  which 
he  at  last  arrived  at  great  weight.  He  came  to  the  conclu- 
sion that  Iturbide  was  not  firmly  seated  on  his  throne,  and 
therefore  that  it  would  not  be  wise  for  us  to  recognize  him. 
He  had  hardly  returned  to  this  country  when  news  reached 


32  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

here  that  the  Emperor  had  been  deposed  by  a  new  revolution. 
It  may  be  added  that  Iturbide  was  exiled,  but  that  hoping 
again  to  regain  power  he  returned  to  Mexico,  and  having 
been  taken  prisoner  was  at  once  shot.  It  is  perhaps  worthy 
of  remark  that  to  the  Mexicans  of  the  present  day  Iturbide, 
although  he  was  shot  as  a  traitor,  is  nevertheless  a  national 
hero.  At  present  the  highest  places  in  the  Mexican  Valhalla 
are  appropriated  to  those  who  although  Spaniards  were  them- 
selves in  life  conspicuous  for  their  hostility  to  the  injustice  and 
cruelty  of  the  Spanish  domination.  Thus  in  the  new  Paseo 
of  the  City  of  Mexico  colossal  statues  commemorate  four  men 
whose  title  to  fame  rests  in  the  eyes  of  the  Mexicans  on  this 
basis.  These  statues  are  those  of  Columbus,  victim  of  the 
ingratitude  of  Spain;  Hidalgo,  who  headed  the  first  out- 
break against  her  authority;  Morelos,  who  continued  the 
revolution ;  and  Iturbide,  who  although  once  a  royal  officer 
and  in  the  end  executed  as  a  traitor  to  the  republic  is  still  a 
popular  hero  because  he  died  an  enemy  to  the  Spaniards. 

On  the  return  of  Mr.  Poinsett  from  Mexico  in  1823  he 
became  a  candidate  for  re-election  to  Congress.  The  excite- 
ment concerning  the  tariff  was  just  beginning,  and  the 
measures  which  it  would  be  proper  for  South  Carolina  to 
take  in  case  the  Government  should  not  change  its  policy 
on  this  subject  were  being  discussed,  and  it  was  proposed 
by  some  of  his  constituents  that  he  should  pledge  himself 
before  the  election  as  to  the  course  he  would  pursue  as  a 
member  of  Congress.  To  his  honor  be  it  said,  and  as  an 
example  to  us  in  these  days  of  political  degeneracy,  that  he 
promptly  and  decidedly  refused  to  make  any  such  pledge  or 
declaration.  He  told  those  who  asked  him  to  make  such  a 
promise  that  his  past  public  career  was  the  best  pledge  he 
could  give  for  his  future  course,  and  his  constituents  were 
wise  enough  to  re-elect  him  by  a  large  majority. 

In  1824,  Mr.  Poinsett  was  an  ardent  advocate  of  the  elec- 
tion of  General  Jackson  to  the  Presidency.  As  there  was 
no  choice  by  the  people,  the  contest  was  transferred  to  the 
House  of  Representatives,  when  Mr.  John  Quincy  Adams 
was  chosen.     On  the  day  after  Mr.  Adams's  inauguration 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  33 

he  offered  the  post  of  Minister  Plenipotentiary  to  Mexico  to 
Mr.  Poinsett.  Two  things  are  to  be  specially  noted  in  this 
offer, — first,  the  purity  of  the  public  service  at  that  time, 
which  permitted  the  appointment  of  a  political  opponent  to 
one  of  the  most  important  offices  in  the  gift  of  the  Presi- 
dent; and,  second,  the  high  opinion  entertained  by  Mr. 
Adams  of  Mr.  Poinsett's  qualifications,  and  certainly  no  one 
had  had  more  abundant  opportunities  than  he  of  testing  his 
special  gifts  as  a  diplomatist,  as  he  had  been  Secretary  of 
State  during  Mr.  Poinsett's  former  mission  to  Mexico. 

Mr.  Poinsett's  course  while  he  represented  this  country 
in  Mexico  has  been  much  criticised,  and  certainly  the  dis- 
tracted condition  of  the  republic  while  he  resided  there 
was  such  that  no  active  policy  he  could  have  pursued,  never 
mind  what,  would  have  escaped  the  violent  censure  of  some 
of  the  partisans  who  were  struggling  to  secure  power  and 
office.  When  he  reached  Mexico  he  found  the  public  mind 
in  a  highly-excited  condition.  Although  the  country  was 
nominally  a  republic,  he  soon  discovered  that  the  real  power 
was  in  the  hands  of  the  aristocracy,  who,  supported  by  the 
clergy  and  the  army,  strove  to  keep  the  ignorant  populace 
under  their  despotic  sway.  One  of  the  peculiarities  of  the 
Mexican  revolt  against  Spain  up  to  that  period  had  been  the 
maintenance  of  the  privileges  and  the  riches  of  the  Roman 
Catholic  clergy  without  any  diminution  whatever,  for  a 
fanatical  devotion  to  their  religion  has  always  been  a 
striking  characteristic  of  the  mass  of  the  Mexicans.  Many 
of  the  revolutionary  disturbances  were  led  by  priests,  and 
all  of  them  were  more  or  less  under  their  control.  What- 
ever else  the  revolutionists  changed,  or  desired  to  change, 
the  Church  with  its  power  and  wealth  was  left  unharmed 
and  untouched  like  the  Ark  in  the  wilderness :  it  was  to  all 
sacred.  The  Church  retained  through  all  these  convulsions 
property  which  is  said  to  have  amounted  in  1857  (when  it 
was  confiscated)  to  the  enormous  sum  of  three  hundred  mil- 
lions of  dollars,  and  of  course  the  clergy  from  their  posi- 
tion and  organization  with  these  means  at  their  disposal 
became  the  most  powerful  body  in  the  country.     By  the 

3 


34  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

time  Mr.  Poinsett  arrived  in  Mexico  the  higher  clergy  had 
become  tired  of  the  revolutions  which  were  incessantly  dis- 
turbing their  peace  and  threatening  their  security.  They 
had  become  conservative,  and  eagerly  allied  themselves  with 
those  who  sought  to  establish  a  stable  government,  The 
other  conservative  class  was  the  large  landholders,  proprie- 
tors of  vast  haciendas,  sometimes  many  square  miles  in  ex- 
tent, where  they  lived  in  a  semi-independent  state,  defying 
any  government  which  they  did  not  choose  to  recognize, 
and,  in  short,  enjoying  the  influence  and  possessing  substan- 
tially the  power  of  feudal  lords.  Indeed,  so  rooted  is  this 
system  of  holding  land  in  the  habits  and  ideas  of  the  people 
of  Mexico  that  to  this  day  it  remains  almost  wholly  un- 
changed. The  Church  has  been  despoiled  of  its  riches  and 
privileges  until  now  it  is  the  poorest  Catholic  Church  in 
Christendom ;  the  country  for  a  number  of  years  has  been 
without  serious  revolutionary  disturbances ;  modern  civiliza- 
tion in  our  sense  has  penetrated  beyond  the  frontier;  and 
yet  this  system  of  dividing  the  country  among  a  few  owners 
of  large  haciendas  continues  unchanged,  and  the  proprietors 
exercise  almost  as  much  authority  and  influence  now  as  they 
did  in  the  palmy  days  of  the  Spanish  viceroy alty.  These 
two  conservative  bodies  acting  together  had  the  entire  con- 
trol of  the  army  in  the  support  of  their  pretensions,  while 
the  genuine  republican  party,  as  we  should  deem  it,  was 
made  up  of  a  few  enlightened  men,  many  adventurers,  and 
the  mass  of  the  populace  in  the  large  towns. 

Mr.  Poinsett  thus  found  the  Church  and  the  State  banded 
together  in  possession  of  the  power  on  the  one  side,  and  on 
the  other  the  discontented  but  true  republicans,  watching 
every  opportunity  and  willing  to  risk  even  a  revolution 
(which,  of  course,  in  all  Spanish-American  countries  is  an 
event  far  less  grave  than  it  would  be  with  us)  in  order  to 
snatch  that  power  from  them. 

On  his  arrival  the  leaders  of  the  opposition  crowded 
around  him  seeking  information  and  advice.  It  was  natural 
that  they  should  have  done  so,  for  to  whom  would  they  be 
likely  to  turn  more  readily  than  to  the  representative  of 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  35 

that  great  republic  which  had  successfully  surmounted 
those  obstacles  which  appeared  so  formidable  to  those  who 
were  trying  to  establish  in  Mexico  a  system  similar  to  that 
which  had  been  adopted  here  ?  Mr.  Poinsett  gave  the  in- 
formation, but  declined  to  give  the  advice,  as  inconsistent 
with  his  duties  as  Minister.  He  could  not,  of  course,  help 
feeling  that  they,  and  not  the  party  in  power,  were  the  true 
republicans  according  to  the  standard  which  prevailed  in  any 
of  the  countries  in  which  he  had  passed  his  life.  He  had 
probably,  too,  a  certain  sympathy  with  them,  for,  like  every 
true  American  of  that  day,  he  ardently  desired  the  spread 
of  republicanism  everywhere,  and  especially  upon  the  Con- 
tinent of  America,  but  he  never  forgot  that  he  was  not 
accredited  to  them,  and  that  his  business  in  the  country 
was  with  the  established  Government  and  not  with  the 
opposition.  He  did  no  act  which  compromised  his  position, 
still  his  sympathy  no  doubt  encouraged  the  discontented, 
and  certainly  did  not  aid  him  in  negotiating  the  treaty 
which  he  was  sent  to  Mexico  to  make.  His  position  be- 
came a  very  difficult  and  embarrassing  one,  and  many  of 
the  Government  party  became  very  hostile  to  him. 

Meanwhile,  the  disaffected  became  more  and  more  clam- 
orous, and  at  last,  in  consequence  of  the  armed  resistance 
of  the  Government  to  the  installation  of  Guerrero,  whom  its 
opponents  claimed  to  have  elected  President,  they  broke 
out  into  open  rebellion.  With  this  revolt  is  connected  an 
episode  in  Mr.  Poinsett's  career  as  Minister  in  Mexico 
which,  as  illustrating  his  cool  courage  and  his  chivalric 
nature,  as  well  as  the  prestige  of  the  American  name  and 
flag  in  foreign  countries,  is  well  worth  repeating,  although 
it  is  doubtless  familiar  to  many.  The  revolutionists  had  de- 
termined to  attack  the  National  Palace,  which  is  at  one  end 
of  the  principal  street  (that  of  San  Francisco),  while  the 
Alameda,  the  public  park,  bounds  the  other.  Having  seized 
the  Alameda,  the  barracks,  and  the  artillery,  the  mob  ad- 
vanced along  this  street  towards  the  Palace.  The  houses 
on  each  side  were  filled  with  Government  troops,  and  many 
of  them  were  known  to  belong  to  families  of  Spaniards,  or 


36  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

of  persons  supposed  to  be  friendly  to  the  Government. 
These  houses  were  regularly  besieged  by  the  insurgents,  and 
many  of  them  were  taken  and  destroyed.  Mr.  Poinsett's 
house  was  in  this  street,  and  while  the  conflict  was  raging, 
Madame  Yturrigaray,  the  widow  of  a  former  Spanish  Vice- 
roy, who  was  his  neighbor,  with  some  of  her  friends,  all 
Spaniards,  sought  the  refuge  and  protection  of  the  American 
Embassy.  The  insurgents  advanced  to  attack  the  house, 
which  they  do  not  seem  to  have  known  to  be  that  of  the 
American  Minister,  maddened  by  the  story  that  was  told 
them  that  its  proprietor  had  sheltered  the  hated  Spaniards. 
They  attacked  the  gates  which  enclosed  the  court-yard  and 
clamored  for  the  blood  of  their  enemies.  A  musket-ball 
which  came  through  the  window  lodged  in  Mr.  Poinsett's 
cloak.  At  this  moment  Mr.  Poinsett,  accompanied  by  his 
Secretary  of  Legation,  Mr.  John  Mason,  Jr.,  took  the  Ameri- 
can flag,  and,  advancing  with  it  in  his  hand  to  the  balcony 
of  his  house,  displayed  it  for  the  first  time  before  the  eyes 
of  the  thousands  who  were  thirsting  for  his  blood  because  he 
had  baulked  their  vengeance.  He  told  them  who  he  was,  and 
what  nation  that  flag  represented.  Either  because  they  rec- 
ognized in  that  flag  the  emblem  of  the  American  power,  or 
because  some  among  them  knew  Mr.  Poinsett  as  a  diplo- 
matist who  had  always  been  a  friend  of  their  leaders,  they 
at  once  ceased  their  hostile  attitude.  The  display  of  that 
flag  by  its  courageous  upholder  in  the  streets  of  the  City 
of  Mexico  changed  at  once  the  threatening  temper  of  that 
wild  mob,  and  soon  after  it  dispersed. 

Mr.  Poinsett's  affiliation  with  the  Freemasons  in  Mexico 
proved  a  constant  source  of  embarrassment  to  the  success 
of  his  mission  in  that  country.  It  seems  that  he  had  been 
long  a  member  of  the  Masonic  order  here,  and  on  his  arrival 
in  the  City  of  Mexico  he  was  welcomed  as  a  visitor  to  the 
lodges  with  that  cosmopolitan  spirit  of  fraternity  which  is 
characteristic  of  the  Masonic  body  everywhere.  The  Mexi- 
can Masons  belonged  to  the  "  Scotch  rite,"  while  it  seems 
that  in  the  hierarchy  of  Masonry  the  "  York  rite"  holds  a 
higher  rank.     Mr.  Poinsett  explained  this  difference  to  his 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  37 

associates,  and  told  them,  with  that  spirit  of  courtesy  which 
never  failed  him,  that  if  it  was  agreeable  to  them  he  would 
apply  to  the  Masonic  authorities  in  this  country  for  a  charter 
to  establish  lodges  in  Mexico  who  should  work  accordiug 
to  the  "  York  rite."  The  charter  was  granted  and  the 
lodges  duly  organized  under  it.  But,  unfortunately,  the 
persons  elected  as  members  of  the  new  lodges  were  nearly 
all  democrats,  and  opposed  to  the  party  in  power.  The  old 
lodges  and  the  new  soon  formed  two  political  camps,  and 
such  was  the  bitterness  and  intensity  of  feeling  at  that  time, 
that  they  were  looked  upon  by  public  opinion  rather  as 
party  organizations  than  as  fraternal  associations.  Mr. 
Poinsett's  well-meant  efforts  to  extend  the  Masonic  rule  in 
Mexico  was  regarded  by  his  enemies  as  an  underhanded 
effort  on  his  part  to  give  aid  and  encouragement  to  the  dis- 
affected. "When  he  found  that  he  was  being  forced  into  the 
position  of  a  partisan  leader  through  his  connection  with 
this  miserable  squabble,  he  withdrew  himself  from  all  com- 
munication with  both  bodies.  But  the  mischief  was  done, 
and  his  influence  with  the  Government  from  that  time  was 
very  much  lessened. 

Mr.  Poinsett  negotiated  a  boundary  treaty  with  the  Mexi- 
can Government  and  also  a  treaty  of  commerce,  which  was 
not  ratified  because  it  contained  a  stipulation  "  that  all  per- 
sons bound  to  labor  taking  refuge  in  Mexico  should  be 
given  up  to  their  legal  claimants."  This  is  a  noteworthy 
event  in  the  history  of  republicanism  on  this  continent,  for 
it  shows  that  the  Mexicans  even  at  that  early  date  were  at 
least  so  far  advanced  in  their  political  education  that  they 
were  unwilling  to  enact  a  fugitive-slave  law  even  to  oblige 
the  United  States.  It  should  be  added,  however,  in  order 
to  show  how  little  public  opinion  at  that  time  in  other  parts 
of  the  world  supported  the  pretension  "  that  a  slave  could 
not  exist  on  Mexican  soil,"  that  Mr.  Ward,  the  British  Min- 
ister, concluded  about  the  same  time  with  the  Mexican 
Government  a  treaty  of  commerce  similar  to  ours,  omitting 
the  stipulation  in  regard  to  fugitive  slaves.  When  this 
treaty  was  submitted  to  Mr.  Canning,  then  the  English 


38  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

Foreign  Secretary,  he  sent  it  back  to  Mexico,  refusing  to 
ratify  it  until  the  Mexicans  would  agree  to  surrender  not 
only  fugitive  slaves  but  also  apprentices  from  the  West  In- 
dies and  deserters  from  the  English  army  and  navy. 

The  annoyances  and  vexations  which  Mr.  Poinsett  suf- 
fered in  Mexico  did  not  make  him  unmindful  of  the  interest 
felt  by  people  here  in  the  wonderful  curiosities,  natural  and 
archaeological,  to  be  found  in  that  country.  He  learned 
how  to  propagate  olive-trees,  and  sent  many  cuttings  to  be 
planted  in  his  own  garden  in  South  Carolina.  He  intro- 
duced into  this  country  that  well-known  and  truly  splendid 
flower  now  called  Poinsettia,  of  the  order  of  PJuphorbiacece. 
He  sent  to  the  American  Philosophical  Society  in  Philadel- 
phia the  original  manuscript  and  the  drawings  from  which 
Captain  du  Paix  had  copied  the  materials  for  his  magnifi- 
cent work  on  the  antiquities  of  Mexico,  published  in  Paris 
in  1834.  For  a  long  time  the  ruins  depicted  in  this  work 
were  regarded  by  the  learned  as  antediluvian,  an  opinion 
which,  by  the  way,  has  since  been  wholly  disproved  by  Mr. 
John  L.  Stephens  and  other  observers. 

n. 

Mr.  Poinsett  asked  for  his  recall  in  1829,  and  his  request 
was  granted  without  difficulty.  He  reached  this  country  at 
a  very  critical  period,  the  era  of  the  nullification  excitement, 
and  he  prepared  to  take  an  active  part  in  the  controversy 
as  the  champion  of  the  Union  party  of  his  State.  On  his 
arrival  in  Charleston  he  was  received  and  welcomed  by  his 
friends  without  distinction  of  party  as  a  man  who  had  done 
honor  to  his  native  State.  On  inquiry  he  found  that  while 
a  large  proportion  of  the  inhabitants  both  in  the  city  and 
the  State  were  dissatisfied  with  the  duties  levied  by  the  tariff 
of  1828,  they  wholly  disapproved  of  the  violent  measures 
proposed  by  the  JSTullifiers  in  order  to  resist  their  payment, 
but  many  of  the  leading  men  on  the  Union  side  seemed  to 
doubt  whether  it  was  possible  to  stay  the  torrent  which  was 
sweeping  the  people  of  the  State  into  an  attitude  of  defiance 
against  the  General  Government.  Mr.  Poinsett,  however, 
was  hopeful,  and  he  tried  to  inspire  hope  in  others.    He  sue- 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  39 

ceeded  so  well  that  at  the  next  election  (in  1830),  which  was 
conducted  by  both  sides  with  great  energy,  the  Union  party 
in  the  State  was  successful,  electing  a  majority  of  the  mem- 
bers of  the  Legislature.  His  associates  in  this  conflict  bear 
names  identified  with  the  history  of  Carolina  as  among  the 
most  distinguished  of  her  citizens,— Colonel  William  Dray- 
ton, Judge  Huger,  James  L.  Petigru,  Thomas  S.  Grimke, 
the  Richardsons  of  Sumter,  Judge  David  Johnson,  Judge 
O'Neal,  the  Pringles,  and  a  host  of  others.  Mr.  Poinsett 
was  elected  Senator  from  the  Charleston  district.  In  Co- 
lumbia he  met  face  to  face  with  his  late  violent  opponents, 
and  although  he  and  his  friends  maintained  such  pro- 
nounced opinions  in  favor  of  the  Union,  such  was  the 
character  and  bearing  of  the  leading  men  on  both  sides,  that 
the  wide  difference  of  sentiment  between  them  led  to  no 
unseemly  want  of  courtesy  or  even  of  cordiality  in  their 
personal  intercourse. 

The  position  taken  by  the  Nullifiers  in  their  controversy 
with  the  United  States  Government  at  the  beginning,  and 
consistently  maintained  by  them  to  its  close,  was  simply  this : 
"  That  any  one  State  may  not  only  declare  an  act  of  Con- 
gress void,  but  prohibit  its  execution ;  that  they  may  do  this 
consistently  with  the  Constitution ;  that  the  true  construction 
of  that  instrument  permits  a  State  to  retain  its  place  in  the 
Union,  and  yet  be  bound  by  no  other  of  its  laws  than  those 
it  may  choose  to  consider  as  constitutional."     It  is  to  be  re- 
membered that  Mr.  Calhoun  and  his  friends  whom  he  had 
convinced   by  his  metaphysical  subtleties   always   insisted 
that  the  doctrine  of  nullification  was  remedial  only  and  not 
revolutionary,  and  that  it  was  a  reserved  right  (resembling 
the  tribunitian  power  in  Rome)  on  the  part  of  each  State,  to 
be  employed  in  the  last  resort  to  force  the  others  to  do  it 
justice.     Against   such  a  colossal  heresy,  as  Mr.  Madison 
called  it,  the  Union  party,  headed  by  Mr.  Poinsett  and  his 
friends,  protested  with  extraordinary  vigor  for  more  than 
three  years,  and  they  became,  amidst  many  discouragements 
and  much  personal  danger,  the  warm  supporters  of  the  Gen- 
eral Government  in  its  efforts   to  maintain  its  authority  in 


40  The  Life  and  Seimces  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

South  Carolina  as  it  did  everywhere  else  throughout  the 
country.  It  should  not  be  forgotten,  too,  that  the  Union 
party  was  quite  as  much  opposed  to  the  provisions  of  the 
tariff  of  1828  as  their  opponents,  but  they  looked  for  a 
remedy  to  the  methods  prescribed  by  the  Constitution  of 
the  United  States  itself,  and  not  to  the  annulling  of  a  federal 
law  by  the  alleged  sovereign  power  of  one  of  the  States. 

The  following:  sketch  of  the  events  of  the  "  Nullification 
Era"  in  South  Carolina,  as  it  is  called,  written  by  Dr.  Joseph 
Johnson,  a  friend  of  Mr.  Poinsett  and  an  eye-witness  of 
most  of  the  proceedings,  seems  so  clear,  accurate,  and  com- 
plete, and  explains  so  fully  Mr.  Poinsett's  connection  with 
the  movement,  that  we  cannot  do  better  than  to  present  the 
life-like  picture  which  he  has  drawn  to  the  reader : 

"  The  foreign  Enemies  of  our  Commerce  were  hostile  to 
our  manufacturing  establishments,  &  tried  to  crush  them  by 
various  means.  One  of  their  plans  was  to  deluge  the 
United  States  with  the  coarse  fabricks  of  their  establish- 
ments. Protective  Duties  were  imposed  on  all  such  impor- 
tations. In  some  cases  they  were  so  heavy,  as  to  exclude 
such  articles  altogether,  &  thus  produced  an  effect  on  Com- 
merce unlooked  for  &  not  intended.  The  freights  of  vessels 
returning  from  India  &  China  were  much  reduced  by  the 
exclusion  of  these  bulky  articles,  &  their  Profits  diminished. 
The  Southern  States  who  were  but  slightly  engaged  in  either 
Commerce  or  Manufactures,  had  liberally  voted  taxes  for  the 
encouragement  of  both,  as  national  concerns.  Their  being 
willing  to  sacrifice  so  much  for  the  public  good,  roused  the 
manufacturers  to  impose  much  heavier  Duties  on  most  of 
the  Articles  of  which  the  South  was  the  chief  Consumer. 
Many  of  those  Articles  were  made  to  pay  40  ^r  C*  on  their 
first  Cost,  &  the  Southern  Orators  in  their  declamatory  ad- 
dresses inflamed  the  minds  of  their  hearers  by  asserting  that 
this  was  taking  from  them  $40  out  of  every  $100  which  they 
earnd  by  their  daily  labour.  Mr  McDufiie  insisted  that  the 
Genr1  Govern*  imposed  on  the  South  these  unequal  and  un- 
just Taxes  to  oppress  them,  &  by  these  imposts  took  from 
every  Cotton  Planter,  forty  Bales  of  every  hundred  that  he 
could  send  to  market.  This  was  called  M°Dufiie's  forty 
Bale  Theory,  &  many  believed  it.  In  vain  was  it  explained 
to  them  by  the  Union  Party,  that  this  was  an  exaggerated 


The  Life  mid  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  41 

ZZ^In  v^n  grieVrf  WhJCh  n°  °ne  in  the  South  ap- 
?™I  ^  *S  WaS  ?  Sh0Wed  t0  them>  *at  if  this  were 

true  they  would  now  be  obliged  to  pay  from  one  third  to 
one  half  more  for  their  blankets  Clothing,  Salt,  Su'ar  Tea 
&  coffee  than  they  had  always  been  aC&eustomed°to'pay 
They  all  used    they  all  bought,  they  all  knew  the  former 
cost  of  such  things,  &  could  readily  say  whether  theyTow 
paid  more  for  them  m  any  thing  like  that  proportion  stated 
bv  Ca  houn   M'Duffie,  Hamilton,  Hayne,  Turnbu    &  others 
of  their  public  men.     That  as  to  the  inequality  of  the  Im 
post,  it  was  not  possible  to  impose  any  Tax  that  mio-ht  not 
bear  unequally  on  some  State  or  State's,  according    Sits  or 
their  peculiar  habits  or  fashions.     That  every  a?t  of  Con 
gress  extended  alike  oyer  every  State  in  thTlJi on   &  all 
had  equal  rights  to  establish  the  Manufactories  favored  by 
these  imposts.     That  they  were  not  imposed  to  favor  any 
Cr,  °f  oufr/OI?m0?T  Country,  but  to  protect  all  the  JJ. 
States  against  foreign  Nations,  &  prevent  them  from  crush 
mg  our  infant  establishments  by  their  overwhelminTcaS 
their  greater  practical  skill  &  experience,  &  the  fmproved 
cons  ruction  of  their  machinery/ That  the  South  had  an 

in "tead'ff  /ltb,the  \0rth  t°  pr°fit  *  these  regulations,  & 
nstead  of  disputing  about  them  with  the  North!  to  go  &  do 

likewise  to  establish  similar  manufactories,  and  avail  tW 
selves  of  their  black  population-the  cheaper  description 
of  operators.  The  public  mind  became  more  &  more  ex- 
cited  against  these  heavy  imposts,  which  unquesti?onabfy 
bore  unequally  on  the  South,  as  they  were  not  manufaX 
turersof  the  protected  articles;  &  at  the  ensuiDg  election 
tt  l^Zlo^^  *  maj°ritieS  in  b0th  biSndffrf 
"  In  1828  at  the  Annual  Meeting  of  the  Legislature  <i 
r;ra  aPPoi^/  to  consider  &  r°eport  on  Gov° erno ?Tay 

IdoDted  "t^^^^6^11?  t0  the  Tariffi  A  resolutio»  wi 
stitution.lHvl  1S  exPedieut  t0  Prote«t  against  the  uncon- 
stitutionality &  oppressive  operation  of  the  System  of  nro- 

of  thegSe^e:'o&f  ^W?  ^fS r°teSt  entered  °°  the  Journals 
JJr T  v  at?  °f  the  United  States-  Also  t0  make  a  public 
exposition  of  our  wrongs  &  of  the  remedies  within  our 
power  &  to  communicate  them  to  our  Sister  States  with  a 

.TXWr^16^ this  state  in  p^^rinS 

a  repeal  of  the  Tariff  for  protection,  &  an  abandonment  of 
the  Principle,  &  if  the  repeal  be  not  procured,  that  they  will 

theTv'r    m  SU      mea8Ure8  aS  ma?  hQ  Gece  sar^  *™ 


42  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  E.  Poinsett. 

"  This  select  Coin*86  consisted  of  James  Gregg,  D.  L.  Ward- 
law,  Hugh  S.  Legare,  Arthur  P.  Hayne,  Wm  C.  Preston,  Willm 
Elliott,  &  R'  Barnwell  Smith.  They  reported  an  Exposition 
&  Protest  which  was  adopted  on  the  19th  of  Decr  1828,  or- 
dered to  be  printed  &  appeared  in  Pamphlet  form  early  in 
1829.  These  Pamphlets  were  diffused  far  and  wide,  read 
by  most  people  of  reflection,  &  commented  on  in  all  the 
public  journals,  variously  according  to  the  various  opinions 
of  their  editors  or  Patrons.  The  Report  admitted  that  a 
Tariff  on  Imports  may  be  so  arranged  as  to  encourage  man- 
ufactures incidentally,  by  imposing  duties  for  Revenue,  on 
articles  now  manufactured  within  the  U.  States :  but  asserted 
that  the  Tariff  of  1828  was  not  so  arranged ;  that  it  was  un- 
equal and  oppressive  on  the  South  &  S°  Western  parts  of 
the  Union,  and  was  not  necessary  for  Revenue,  but  declared 
to  be  for  the  promotion  of  manufactures.  That  the  Protec- 
tive System  is  therefore  unjust,  Oppressive,  &  unconstitu- 
tional ;  imposing  such  Duties  on  Commerce  &  Agriculture, 
for  the  avowed  purpose  of  promoting  manufactures :  &  im- 
posing them  on  the  South  to  favor  the  interests  of  the 
North.  That  it  was  unconstitutional,  as  it  was  not  imposed 
for  the  purpose  of  raising  a  Revenue,  &  ought  to  be  resisted. 
That  each  State  in  the  Union  is  a  Sovereignty,  &  has  as 
such  a  perfect  right  to  judge  for  itself  the  violations  of  its 
Rights,  &  a  perfect  right  to  determine  the  mode  &  measure 
of  its  resistance.  That  in  the  present  case  Nullification  is 
the  rightful  Remedy,  &  if  properly  carried  out,  is  sufficient 
to  protect  South  Carolina  from  the  unconstitutional  pro- 
ceedings of  Congress.  'They  therefore  solemnly  protest 
against  the  System  of  protecting  Duties,  lately  adopted  b> 
the  Federal  Government.' 

"  No  further  measure  was  taken,  at  this  session  of  the 
Legislature,  but  the  subject  continued  to  agitate  the  public 
mind,  &  the  discussion  was  kept  up  with  zeal  &  animation 
on  both  sides.  The  Union  men  urged  that  whatever  may 
be  the  weight  or  inequality  of  the  Tariff,  they  felt  it  in  an 
equal  degree  with  their  fellow  Citizens  of  the  other  party. 
That  they  too  had  endeavored  to  prevent  it  from  being  im- 
posed to  the  present  extent,  but  now  that  it  was  imposed, 
resistance  by  force  or  unconstitutional  measures,  would  only 
make  things  worse,  &  perpetuate  the  evils  of  which  they 
complained.  That  in  1816  Mr  Calhoun  &  other  influential 
Southerners,  with  the  best  of  motives,  had  brought  forward 
this  System,  &  imposed  prohibitory  Duties  on  Coarse  Cotton 
Fabrics,  usually  imported  from  India,  by  which  the  Shipping 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  43 

Interests  of  the  North  had  suffered  heavily.  That  although 
they  complained,  they  did  not  resist  an  Act  of  Congress, 
imposed  for  the  protection  of  manufactures  of  that  descrip- 
tion. Some  of  them  withdrew  a  portion  of  their  Capital 
from  Commerce  &  united  in  extending  manufacturing  estab- 
lishments of  various  descriptions.  They  now  find  that  these 
new  &  finer  fabrics  require  protection  in  proportion  with  the 
first  &  coarser  kinds. 

"  In  these  great  changes  the  North  did  not  all  concur ; 
they  who  had  first  adventured,  feared  that  they  would  be 
sufferers  by  the  great  competition  in  their  own  markets,  & 
the  value  of  their  Stock  on  hand  be  depressed.  A  meeting 
of  Merchants  &  Manufacturers  in  Boston  was  held  in  Nov* 
1827.  They  showed  how  much  they  were  opposed,  and  on 
what  strong  grounds  to  such  sudden  &  such  great  Changes ; 
such  interference  by  Congress  in  the  Concerns  of  Trade  & 
manufactures.  The  Union  men  concurred  in  the  impolicy  of 
such  measures  as  were  pursued,  but  as  to  their  being  uncon- 
stitutional, there  were  strong  grounds  for  a  different  opinion. 
That  in  the  Administration  of  Gen1  "Washington  in  a  Con- 
gress mostly  composed  of  those  who  had  been  members  of 
the  Convention,  in  which  that  Constitution  had  been 
framed,  discussed  &  adopted;  the  second  Act  of  that  Con- 
gress, had  the  following  Preamble  '  "Whereas  it  is  necessary 
for  the  support  of  Government,  for  the  discharge  of  the 
Debts  of  the  U.  States,  &  for  the  protection  &  encourage- 
ment of  Manufactures,  that  Duties  be  laid  on  Goods,  "Wares 
&  Merchandise  be  it  therefore  enacted.'  This  Act  was  sanc- 
tioned &  signed  by  President  Washington  &  its  principles 
adopted.  Although  the  Federal  Party  lost  their  influence 
at  the  close  of  Mr  J.  Adams'  Administration,  this  doctrine 
of  Protection  to  Manufactures  continued  among  the  Demo- 
crats who  succeeded  his  Administration,  &  was  advocated  by 
Jefferson,  Madison  &  Monroe. 

"  Govr  Miller's  term  as  Governor  of  S°  Ca  passed  off  with 
some  increase  in  the  proportion  of  Nullification  Representa- 
tives &  in  his  declaration  of '  the  Right  to  Fight.'  The  othr" 
Southern  States  appealed  to  in  the  exposition  of  S°  Carolii 
would  not  countenance  or  unite  with  them  in  Nullificatio 
doctrines.  It  was  demonstrated  that  such  Duties  were  paid 
by  the  Consumers  of  the  Articles  thus  taxed,  and  by  each 
portion  of  the  Union  in  proportion  to  the  population  of  such 
Consumers  in  that  portion.  That  the  Northern  portions 
were  much  more  populous  than  the  South,  &  the  adjoining 
States  to  S°  Ca  much  more  populous  than  herself,  therefore 


44  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

greater  consumers  in  proportion  &  that  they  would  not  unite 
in  her  Crusade.     They  considered  S°  CaB  too  sensitive  of  her 
grievances,  and  trusted  that  these  however  oppressive  and 
offensive  could  be  &  would  be  remedied  by  constitutional 
measures  much  better  than  by  force.    That  as  to  the  Perfect 
Sovereignty  of  the  State— this  existed  previous  to  the  adop- 
tion of  "the  Federal  Constitution,  but  a  part  of  it  was  then 
o-iven  up  by  each  State  to  the  Federal  Government,  to  obtain 
their  Guarantee  of  all  their  other  public  &  private  Rights. 
Under  that  Constitution  all  the  States  yielded  their  Sov- 
ei«m  Rights  to  inlist  Troops,  to  declare  &  carry  on  War ;  to 
make  Peace;  to  negotiate  Treaties  with  foreign  nations;  to 
regulate  Commerce ;  to  coin  Money;  to  issue  Bills  of  Credit; 
to°establish  a  Federal  Court ;  &  to  impose  Duties  &  Taxes 
on  Goods,  Wares  &  Merchandise.      The  obligations  thus 
assumed  by  the  Federal  Government  on  the  grant  of  these 
powers,  embraced  yet  another  viz  that  all  the  States  should 
possess' equal  rights  and  privileges;  and  this  carried  with  it 
an  Obligation  to  prevent  any  State  from  assuming  Rights  & 
Privileges  not  enjoyed  by  all  or  any  of  the  Rest.     That  the 
Federal  Gov*  was  thus  bound  to  prevent  S°  Car'  from  enjoy- 
ing her  assumption  of  Rights,  under  the  Nullification  Acts 
&  Ordinance. 

"  James  Hamilton  Jr  was  elected  Governor  m  Decr  1830. 
The  so  called  American  System  continued  in  its  strength, 
notwithstanding  these  statements  &   remonstrances,  &  on 
the  14th  of  July  1832  an  Act  was  passed  called  an  Amend- 
ment of  the  Tariff.     It  indeed  altered  some  of  the  Imposts 
by  increasing  those  on  articles  consumed  in  the  South,  & 
reduced  those  only  that  were  mostly  used  in  the  North.     It 
was  still  more  oppressive  on  the  South  &  rendered  the  dis- 
satisfied desperate.     In  Octobr  Gov1  Hamilton  issued  a  Proc- 
lamation convening  an  Extra  Session  of  the  Legislature  of 
S°  C\     They  met  accordingly  on  the  22d  Octob1  1832  &  the 
Governors  message  was  delivered  on  the  same  day.     In  it 
he  says,  '  The  Tariff  Act  of  1832  is  in  point  of  Fact  a  Law 
by  which  the  consumption  of  the  manufacturing  States  is 
nearly  relieved  of  all  burdens  on  those  Articles  which  they 
consume  &  do  not  produce,  &  under  the  provisions  of  which 
they  are  secured  in  a  bounty,  on  an  average  of  more  than  fifty 
*§ r  Cfc  on  the  productions  of  their  Industry,  whilst  it  taxes 
our  consumption  to  an  equivalent  amount,  &  the  exchange- 
able value  of  our  products  in  a  much   more   aggravated 
ratio.'     'Articles  of  Luxury  are  selected  as  the  Objects  of 
comparative  exemption  from  all   burden,  whilst  those  of 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  45 

PrS88itJ  w  r  ?earXthe  w£ole  brunt  of  the  Imposts.  Iron, 
Cotton  &  Woolen  fabrics,  Salt  &  Sugar  are  burthened  with 
a  lax  quite  equivalent  to  an  average  of  seventy  five  «'  C< 
on  the  first  Cost;  whilst  the  Teas,  the  Coffees,  the  Silks  & 

n  h!!Z  th?  RlCh'  ^7  a  m?St  UnJUSt  ^crimination 
m  then  favor      Levying  at  least  three  fourths  of  the  whole 

SET*  °«Ahe  >Feieml  RevenUe  on  the   industlT  of  the 
Southern  States.'     He  concludes  by  recommending  the  im- 
mediate call  of  a  Convention,  <as  it  was  in  every  respect 
desirable  that  our  issue   with   the   General    Government 
should  be  made  before  the  meeting  of  Congress  '  ' 

tJi«wT+  aC+t  waJ  accordingly  passed,  ordering  an  election  of 
Delegates  to  a  State  Convention.  <  The  number  of  Delegates 
from  each  election  District,  to  be  the  same  as  the  prfsent 
united^  RePresentatives  and  Senators  in  the  Legislature 
"The  ratification  of  the   Convention  Bill  was  followed 

?iwtr\    *  ft  %d^Ygf  °f  Cannon  and  Music  from 
Doodle '  (        ^  Pr°P0^  Stmck  up  ' Yankee 

"  The  Union  Party  in  S°  Car8  very  properly  considered  this 
Convention  of  the  State  a  Critical  movement,  pregnant  with 
dangerous  consequences.     They  therefore  also  called  a  con- 
vention of  the  Union  Party  to  be  held  at  the  same  time  & 
place.  m   The  Members  of  the  two  Conventions  met  accord- 
ingly in  their  separate  Places;  they  eyed  each  other  with 
suspicion  at  meeting  in  the  Street,  bowed  coolly  but  politely 
&  were  evidently  on  the  watch  if  either  should  commit  itself 
by  intemperate  or  illegal  acts.     The  Union  Members  of  the 
tetate  Convention  offered  objections  to  the  legality  of  its 
constitution— the  members  having  been  elected  as  if  for 
laxation  representing  Property  &  persons  not  as  Delegates 
IrT  au?e°Ple  m  a  Primary  Assembly.     But  this  &  all  other 
difficulties  were  promptly  overruled  by  the  opposite  Party, 
who  followed  their  leaders.     An  Ordinance  was ^accordingly 
ratified  '  for  Arresting  the  operation  of  certain  Acts  of  the 
Congress  of  the  U.  States,  purporting  to  be  laws  laying; 
duties  &  imposts  on  the  importation  of  Foreign  Commodi- 
ties.     ±0  this  Ordinance  was  attached  an  address  to  the 
people  of  S°  Car*  said  to  have  been  written  by  Rob'  L  Turn- 
b.  rriS <*  Jf  other  to  the  people  of  the  U.  States  written 
by  Gen.  M'Dufhe  &  prefixed  to  the  whole  was  an  exposition 


1  it 


'In  this  he  announces  'We  have  resolved  that  until  these  abuses 
shall  be  reformed,'  no  more  Taxes  shall  be  paid  here." 


46  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

or  Introduction  written  by  Gen1  R'  Y.  Hayne.  The  Ordi- 
nance itself  is  said  to  have  been  drawn  up  by  Judge  Wm 
Harper.  It  was  signed  by  Govr  Hamilton  &  by  all  the  State 
Eights'  Members  of  the  Convention  136  in  number.  The 
Legislature  met  in  a  few  days  after  the  Ordinance  was  pub- 
lished. Gov'  Hamilton's  Message  urged  on  them  the  duty 
of  providing  for  inforcing  that  Ordinance. 

"  They  accordingly  passed  the  Replevin  Act — To  carry 
into  effect  in  part  an  Ordinance  to  Nullify  certain  Acts  of 
Congress  &C  &C— Also  '  the  Test  Oath  Act'  by  which  all 
Officers  Civil  &  Military,  were  required  to  take  the  Oath  or 
lose  their  Offices.  Also  An  Act  to  regulate  the  Militia,  & 
another  to  provide  for  the  Security  &  protection  of  the  State 
of  S°  Carolina. 

"  These  energetic  Measures  did  not  proceed  without  ex- 
citing suitable  attention  &  corresponding  measures,  both  in 
the  Union  Party  of  S°  Cara,  &  in  the  heads  of  the  Federal 
Govern'.    The  Administration  employed  agents  in  Columbia 
who  silently  condensed  the  transactions  of  each  day  &  sent 
the  dispatch  off  every  night  to  Wash'gton,  under  cover  to 
a  person  or  name  there,  who  was  unknown  or  could  not  be 
suspected.     The  Union  Convention  continued  its  meetings 
also  in  Columbia,  &  on  the  14th  Decr  1832  adopted  an  address 
&  series  of  Resolutions  exposing  the  illegality  &  injustice  of 
the  measures  lately  adopted  by  the  Party  in  power.    Among 
many  other  objections  it  declared  those  measures  not  only 
revolutionary  but  essentially  belligerent,  &  that  the  Natural  con- 
sequences would  be  Disunion  &  Civil  War.     That  it  betrays 
all  the  features  of  an  odious  Tyranny  to  those  Officers  Civil 
&  Military,  who  holding  their  appointments  legally,  accord- 
ing to  the  Laws  &  Constitution  of  S°  Cara,  were  suddenly 
excluded,  without  impeachment,  trial  or  conviction,  by  the 
new  imposition  of  a  Test  Oath.     To  the  members  of  the 
Union  Party  opposed  to  these  Nullification  Measures,  who 
amount  to  the  respectable  Minority  of  more  than  17,000 
votes  these  measures  are  equally  despotic,  oppressive,  &  im- 
politic.    These  measures  produce  irreconcilable  opposition, 
in  the  bosom  of  their  own  State,  with  that  large  &  respect- 
able Minority,  who  being  equally  opposed  to  the  oppressive 
Tariff,  cannot  unite  in  such  measures  to  effect  its  repeal. 
'  Disclaiming  all  intention  of  lawless  or  insurrectionary  vio- 
lence, they  hereby  proclaim  their  determination  to  protect 
their  Rights  by  all  legal  &  constitutional  means,  unless  com- 
pelled to  throw  these  aside  by  intolerable  oppression.'     This 
document  was  published  with  the  signatures  of  182  of  the 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett  47 

Union  members,  headed  by  their  Presid*  the  Venerable 
Thomas  Taylor  of  Columbia. 

"  The  Inaugural  Address  of  Govr  Hayne  on  the  10th  Dec* 
1832  was  in  his  usual  fluent  &  happ}^  style  but  replete  with 
denunciations  against  the  Federal  Govern4  &  vaunted  State 
Rights  &  the  perfect  Sovereignty  of  South  Carolina.  He 
then  told  the  assembled  Senate  &  House  of  Representatives, 
that  it  was  their  Duty  to  provide  for  carrying  fully  into  ef- 
fect the  Ordinance  of  the  Convention  &  defend  it  with  their 
lives. 

"  The  Legislature  accordingly  proceeded  to  pass  the  fol- 
lowing Acts : 

"An  Act  concerning  the  Oath  required  by  the  Ordinance 
passed  in  Convention  at  Columbia  on  the  24th  day  of  No- 
vembr  1832,  which  imposed  the  Test  Oath  on  all  Officers, 
Civil  &  Military,  in  S°  Carolina. 

"  An  Act  to  carry  into  effect  in  part,  An  Ordinance  to  nul- 
lify certain  Acts  of  the  Congress  of  the  U.  S.,  purporting  to 
be  Laws  laying  Duties  on  the  importation  of  foreign  Com- 
modities, from  &  after  the  1st  day  of  Feby  1833. 

"An  Act  to  provide  for  the  security  &  protection  of  the 
People  of  the  State  of  S°  Carolina,  by  which  the  Governor 
was  authorised  to  accept  Volunteers  &  to  call  out  the  Militia 
for  the  purpose  of  resisting  any  attempt  of  the  Federal  Gov- 
ernment to  inforce  the  payment  of  Duties  on  importations, 
either  by  an  overt  act  of  coercion,  or  by  an  unusual  assem- 
blage of  naval  or  military  forces,  in  or  near  the  State. 
Also  to  authorise  a  Replevin  on  all  such  seizures  by  officers 
of  the  Federal  Government. 

"  On  the  receipt  of  these  Documents,  Presid1  Jackson 
issued  a  Proclamation  to  the  people  of  S.  Carolina  &  sent  a 
message  to  the  two  houses  of  Congress.  In  the  Proclama- 
tion he  appeals  to  their  Reason,  Patriotism,  &  Sense  of  Pro- 
priety, &  then  declared  his  determination  to  inforce  the  Laws 
of  the  U.  States  notwithstanding  the  measures  adopted  in 
S°  Carolina.  It  was  dated  16th  Jan'y  1833,  very  ably  drawn 
up  &  believed  to  have  been  written  by  the  then  Secretary 
of  State  Edward  Livingston.  The  Legislature  of  S°  Carol* 
being  then  in  Session,  Govr  Hayne  sent  them  these  Docu- 
ments from  "Washington  &  with  them,  his  own  Proclama- 
tion. The  House  of  Representatives  in  S°  Car*  referred  the 
whole  to  their  Comtee  on  Federal  Relations,  &  adopted  a 
series  of  Resolutions,  commenting  on  the  Course  of  Pro- 
ceedings &  confirming  their  own  determination  to  resist. 
Having  received  lately  about  $200,000  from  the  Fed1  Govern*, 


48  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

as  a  balance  due  to  S°  Car%  the  Legislature  voted  the  whole 
of  it  for  the  purchase  of  Arms  &  other  Munitions  of  War.1 
"  Here  then  was  S°  Carolina  completely  at  issue  with  the 
Federal  Government,  both  arming  for  attack  &  defence. 
Presid*  Jackson  ordered  seven  Revenue  Cutters  &  the  Sloop 
of  War  Natchez  Com:  Zantzinger  to  rendezvous  in  Cha'ton 
Harbor — the  whole  under  the  command  of  Commodore 
Elliot.  He  likewise  ordered  700  additional  U.  S.  Troops 
to  rendezvous  at  ChaBton  &  garrison  the  Forts,  all  of  which 
were  in  possession  of  the  Gen1  Govern*:  the  whole  were 
under  the  Command  of  Gen1  Scott.  A  Company  of  U.  S. 
troops  had  for  five  or  six  years  occupied  the  Citadel  in 
Cha8ton.  They  were  called  upon  to  give  it  up,  &  they 
promptly  complied.  The  Officers  of  the  State  &  of  the 
General  Govern*  were  polite  to  each  other,  but  it  was  other- 
wise with  the  two  parties  of  the  Inhabitants,  the  Union  men 
&  the  ISTullifyers.  They  had  many  irritating  occurrences  at 
their  Elections — blows  &  broken  heads  were  not  uncommon, 
&  some  Duels  occurred.  When  Volunteers  were  called  out 
by  the  State  to  '  suppress  Insurrection  &  Treason,  they  knew 
that  such  charges  could  not  apply  to  the  Govern*  Troops ; 
&  that  however  unjust  to  the  Union  Party  hitherto,  they 
now  felt  that  they  must  enrol  themselves  for  self  protec- 
tion. They  appointed  a  Central  ComtBe  of  which  Mr  Poin- 
sett was  the  Chrman.  The  military  divisions  were  soon  ar- 
ranged, the  Officers  selected,  &  the  places  of  rendezvous 
assigned  to  each  Company.  A  sufficiency  of  arms  &  ammu- 
nition was  obtained  from  Gen1  Scott,  &  distributed  subject 
to  the  call  of  the  Union  Officers  respectively.  Both  Parties 
had  their  separate  respective  places  of  meeting,  for  harmo- 
nious consultation  &  arrangements.  One  of  these  Places 
occupied  by  the  Union  men  was  conspired  against  by  a 
large  body  of  the  Nullifyers  &  the  entrance  surrounded  at 
night.  Several  of  their  most  respectable  leaders  tried  to 
prevent  it  but  could  not, — the  public  mind  was  much  ex- 
cited ;  they  sent  to  Mr  Poinsett  apprising  him  of  it,  asking 
him  to  persuade  his  friends  to  retire  by  a  different  entrance 
from  that  in  common  use,  but  Mr  P.  returned  an  Answer 
that  they  would  defend  themselves  if  assailed.    Anticipating 

1  "  In  conformity  with  Govr  Haynes  Orders,  the  Adj1  General  John  B. 
Earle  issued  his  proclamation  for  Volunteers  '  to  suppress  insurrection, 
repel  invasion  &  support  the  Civil  Authorities  in  the  execution  of  the 
Laws.'  The  Governor  likewise  issued  Circular  Orders  to  each  Eegiment 
to  examine  &  Report  suitable  Depots  for  Provisions  &C,  on  the  most 
direct  routes  from  their  several  Muster  Grounds  towards  Charleston." 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  49 

such  an  occurrence,  he  had  provided  strips  of  white  Cotton 
to  be  tied  on  the  right  arm  of  each  Union  man  that  they 
might  be  known  to  each  other  in  a  mtUe  ;  he  also  prov  ded 
from  a  Coopers  Shop  the  but  ends  of  their  hoopPpoTes  a. 
Sticks  to  arm  his  party.  He  &  Col  W-  Drayton  were  aS 
pointed  by  acclamation  for  the  Command,  &  they Selected 
other  persons  as  Lieu-  to  command  each  a  Squad  These 
arrangements  were  soon  perfected,  &  the  Union  Party 
marched  out  three  abreast  in  fine  order.  Mai  chin?  no 
King  Street  they  found  themselves  followed  by  the  crowd 
ot  Nullifyers,  that  they  had  passed  at  the  plLe  of  tW 

A  demfndeTdhthYtnZ  ***  ^  ^  ^kfst^ 
^demanded  that  their  opponents  should  immediatelv  dis 
perse  or  they ^should  be  attacked  by  the  Union  men  The 
Nulhfyers  did  accordingly  disperse,  but  there  w?re amt 
them  many  disposed  to  be  mischievous.  WhTle  the  twf 
parties  were  facing  each  other  almost  within  react .three 
of  the  Union  Leaders  Mess™  Petigru,  Drayton  &  Poinsett 

i;red  l  fri  bu? from  unkno™  ^  who  im: 

mediately  sneaked  into  the  crowd  for  concealment;    The 
(rentlemen  were  not  much  hurt. 

ni'^A*  J*™0*  F&^y  found  {t  necessary  to  establish  Ward 

were  assailed.     On  one  occasion  the  Nullify ers  succeeded 

Pan^oTfou^oTr011  8tati^'  &?eat  &  m-used  ^0^ 
one  of  t£  f  • r  ?ccasions  they  were  repulsed,  &  in 

firfrf  •  +    1  °",a  81?gle  Sun  loaded  wit^  small  shot  was 

few  felt VfiZ^  °V 'f?  blf°re  ^  Would  -tire  ;°some 
tew  telt  it  &  it  was  a  hint  to  the  rest,  but  it  did  no  harm 

In  these  collisions  the  Officers  &  Leaders  of  the  Zlifyers 
£  f  f0d  faith  ^  Prevent  them,  &  sooth  the  angry  feel- 
ings on  both  sides;  but  in  order  to  keep  up  a  distinction- 
they  recommended  that  their  men  should  al?  wear  in  theb 

blurbulfol"1"  °0Ckade'  °f  a  C°nical  S^Pe-calTed  the 

the' SlnL^f  w   ^l  Government  were   stationed  thus; 

outh  ofPEasf^  i^2  nlthin  ^  Snot  of  ^  Batter^ 
south  ot  Last  Bay,  &  the  Cutters  about  Cablelen<rth  from 

each  other  in  a  line  North  of  the  Natchez;  except  One  o? 
S  the  P°*  ^der  Captain  Jackson  which  fay  in  the 
Anchorage   between   Forts   Moultrie   &   Castle   plnckney 

oTa  Ma^n^fw'1118^081'1011'  the  Arm^ent  &  disciple 
?  %  ,  £f  Yar  became  an  0bJect  of  Curiositv  to  the 
etch'dav  fhrtlemen  °^ ^arlestoi  At  certain  Tours  of 
each  day,  they  were  politely  welcomed  on  board,  and  every 


50  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

part  of  the  Ship  freely  thrown  open  to  them.  No  distinction 
was  made  between  those  of  the  two  Parties,  unless  when  a 
blue  button  appeared,  &  then  the  Officers  of  the  Ship  were 
very  polite  to  the  wearer  (an  acknowledged  Nullifyer).  The 
Visiters  on  board  were  entertained  with  Promenades  about 
the  Decks,  &  then  with  Music,  Dancing  &  Refreshments, 
Fruits,  &C.  The  Guns  of  the  Forts  were  understood  to  be 
well  found,  &  ready  for  action  if  necessary,  with  Mortars 
in  Castle  Pinckney  for  throwing  Shells  into  Charleston, 
whenever  hostilities  might  commence.  A  Battery  of  heavy 
Cannon  was  likewise  constructed  N°  East  of  the  City  on 
Smiths  Wharf,  then  hired  as  a  Naval  Station,  &  the  Guns 
pointed  against  the  Citadel  &  against  the  Causeway  in 
Meet'g  S'  Road,  by  which  it  was  understood  that  the  State 
troops  would  be  marched  into  Chaaton,  &  stationed  at  &  in 
the  Citadel. 

"  The  Nullifyers  &  State  Authorities  were  likewise  pre- 
paring for  the  Ultima  Ratio,  under  their  Laws  &  Ordinances. 
Arms,  Ammunition  &  Provisions  were  provided  &  distrib- 
uted to  the  different  selected  Stations  in  &  out  of  Charles- 
ton, except  where  from  the  election  returns,  it  was  found 
that  a  Majority  of  the  Union  Party  unquestionably  existed. 
Volunteers  were  accepted,  armed,  &  trained  in  all  the  other 
portions  of  the  State,  &  held  under  Orders  that  they  should 
be  ready  at  a  moments  warning,  to  march  into  Cha"ton 
which  it  was  well  understood  would  be  the  battle  ground  in 
case  of  hostilities.  Among  those  organized  in  Cha'ton  was 
a  body  of  Artillerists  under  Col.  J.  L.  Wilson,  who  had  a 
battery  of  heavy  Cannon  on  Magwoods  Wharf  command- 
ing the  rear  of  Castle  Pinckney,  the  channel  of  Cooper 
River,  &  Hog  Island  Channel.  By  means  of  the  Test  Oath 
they  had  got  clear  of  many  of  the  Militia  Officers  in  the  low 
&  middle  Country,  who  as  Union  men  had  refused  to  take  that 
Oath,  &  their  places  had  been  supplied  with  enthusiasts  in 
their  Cause.  The  State  Officers  held  all  the  Stores,  depots 
&  arms  in  every  part  of  the  State,  the  northern  &  eastern 
Districts  excepted.  Here,  the  majority  of  Union  men  was 
so  great  that  the  Officers  either  refused  to  resign,  or  if  they 
resigned  were  sure  of  being  reelected.1 

1  "  About  this  time  many  strangers  were  in  Charleston  &  among  them 
some  attracted  by  curiosity,  to  witness  the  impending  events.  At  the 
Balls  which  were  then  given,  Ladies  of  both  parties  were  invited  recip- 
rocally ;  some  of  them  attended  each  others  parties  &  were  welcomed 
with  polite  attentions;  the  Gentlemen  were  much  more  shy  of  each 
other.  On  one  occasion  a  gallant  young  Nullifyer  exclaimed  'The 
ladies  are  all  for  Union— to  a  man.'     Not  all  said  a  young  Lady 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  51 

"At  this  Crisis  another  effort  was  made  to  prevent  the 
payment  of  Duties  on  imported  Goods.  A  fast-sail'g  vessel 
was  expected  in  Port,  &  her  owner  agreed  to  try  &  force  her 
up  to  the  "Wharves  where  her  cargo  might  be  rapidly  landed 
&  dispersed  before  the  Custom  h.  Officers  could  have  the 
means  of  preventing  it.  Orders  had  been  issued  to  Cap* 
Jackson  of  the  Cutter  Polk,  to  bring  every  vessel  to  Anchor 
arriving  from  a  foreign  Port,  until  a  signal  was  made  from 
the  Custom  H —  that  the  Duties  had  been  secured  according 
to  Law.  One  of  the  Pilots  was  engaged  to  run  up  this  Ves- 
sel to  the  City  notwithstanding  the  opposition  of  the  Reve- 
nue Cutter.  He  accordingly  disregarded  the  Revenue  Cutter 
&  crowded  all  sail  to  pass  up.  Cap'  Jackson  pursued  &  over- 
took her  but  the  Pilot  would  not  obey  his  Order  to  come  to. 
He  then  ran  the  Cutter  along  side  &  leaped  upon  the  Ships 
deck;  still  the  Pilot  held  his  course,  &  did  not  quit  the  helm 
until  he  saw  the  drawn  sword  of  Cap*  Jackson  raised  against 
his  life.  The  Ship  was  then  put  about,  brought  back  to  her 
place  of  anchorage,  &  detained  there  until  the  Duties  were 
secured,  &  a  signal  given  from  the  Custom  house  to  allow 
her  to  pass  up.  One  of  the  State  Rights  Party  was  overheard 
saying — 'they  are  too  strong  for  us,  but  we  must  strike  a 
blow,  we  may  still  take  one  of  their  Forts  or  Vessels,  &  will 
do  so  before  we  surrender.'  Notice  of  this  intention  was 
given  to  the  U.  S.  Officers  that  they  might  not  be  taken  by 
surprise.  Accordingly  in  a  dark  night  a  large  Canoe  fitted 
for  12  or  14  Oarsmen  was  observed  rowing  up  astern  of  the 
Cutter  Polk,  as  she  lay  at  anchor,  with  her  netting  all  hoisted 
&  her  watch  on  the  look  out.  Only  a  few  men  appeared  row- 
ing the  boat  who  on  being  hailed  answered  like  Country 
negroes,  and  were  ordered  off.  They  however  pulled  the 
stronger  in  the  same  direction,  until  threatened  to  be  fired 
into.  They  then  perceived  that  the  matches  were  lighted, 
the  lanterns  burning,  &  the  boarding  Nets  hoisted,  and  the 
Cannon  pointed  at  the  Canoe.  They  then  rowed  off  and 
reported  progress. 

"  One  of  the  most  talented  &  influential  of  the  State  Rights 
leaders,  not  satisfied  with  the  representations  that  every  thing 
had  been  tried  in  vain,  came  down  from  Columbia  to  see  & 
judge  for  himself.     He  went  on  board  of  the  Natchez  with 

promptly.  I  will  have  nothing  to  do  with  the  Union.  But  said  a 
friend  at  her  elbow,  you  know  that  you  would  like  to  capture  that  hand- 
some U.  S.  Officer.  .  .  .  Oh  said  the  fair  Carolinian,  I  only  wish  to  bring 
him  over  to  our  side ;  to  your  own  side  you  mean,  rejoined  her  discerning 
friend." 


52  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

others,  &  thought  with  reason  that  everything  was  there  put 
in  order  for  the  public  eye.  He  also  hired  a  boat  &  went 
about  the  harbour  inspecting  the  location  &  state  of  prepara- 
tion, at  different  times  of  day  &  night.  In  one  of  these  trips, 
he  passed  close  to  the  Natchez  while  all  were  under  arms,  & 
practising  a  Sham-fight,  or  naval  engagement.  They  were 
all  at  the  moment  repelling  supposed  boarders;  with  the 
Netting  hoisted,  a  part  of  the  Crew  were  thrusting  their 
boarding  Pikes  through  it ;  some  were  working  the  Cannon 
with  lighted  matches, — the  Marines  were  firing  in  Platoons 
from  the  Quarter  Deck  &  Tops,  while  others  on  the  Spars 
were  ready  to  light  &  throw  their  hand  Grenades.  The 
Gentleman  was  perfectly  satisfied  &  in  a  few  days  the  Circus 
Meetg  was  convened. 

"  The  Central  Com*6'  had  frequent  consultations  with  the 
Army  &  Navy  commanders  on  various  interesting  subjects ; 
concerted  with  them  the  Signals  to  be  given  &  returned  on 
various  occurrences,  &  what  would  be  expected  of  the  Union 
Party  in  case  of  an  attack.  It  was  agreed  that  in  such  an 
event  the  Union  Party  should  seize  the  Alarm  Gun  &  Church 
Bells,  &  take  possession  of  the  Guardhouse.  It  was  also 
agreed  that  if  unable  to  hold  the  City,  they  should  seize  on 
the  Peninsula  of  Hampstead  about  a  mile  N°  E.  of  Cha'ton 
&  intrench  themselves  there. 

"  The  Central  Com*66  had  also  frequent  confidential  meet 
ings  by  themselves.  On  one  occasion  a  measure  was  pro- 
posed, which  at  first  view  appeared  very  plausible  to  several 
of  them.  Mr  Petigru  prudently  remarked  that  they  should 
be  very  careful  to  keep  their  proceedings  within  the  Law. 
That  this  was  their  surest  protection  against  the  other  Party, 
who  would  probably  commit  themselves  by  some  hasty  or 
lawless  Act.  This  observation  probably  led  to  the  appeals 
made  to  the  Courts  of  Law  for  cooler  considerations,  all  of 
which  resulted  against  the  nullifying  or  State  R*  Party.  The 
first  of  these  was  on  a  Custom-house  Bond  given  for  the  Du- 
ties on  an  importation  of  "plains."  The  Signer  &  Securities 
of  the  Bond  objected  to  the  payment  on  different  Pleas, 
wishing  the  question  of  their  liability  to  be  submitted  to  a 
Jury,  which  Jury  would  not  decide  in  favor  of  the  U.  S. 
Government.  The  cause  was  very  ably  argued  before  Judge 
Lee  U.  S.  Dis*  C  by  the  Dis'  Atty.  Gilchrist  &  Mr  Petigru 
against  such  reference ;  &  advocated  by  W.  P.  Finley  & 
Geo.  M°Dufiie.  The  Judge  decided  against  the  Pleas — 
the  handwriting  of  the  different  signers  on  the  Bond  was 
then  proved,   &  a  verdict  given   in  favor  of  the  Govern*. 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  53 

An  appeal  was  entered,  &  all  the  notes,  proceedings  &  argu- 
ments submitted  to  Judge  Wm  Johnson,  then  in  bad  health 
in  North  Carolina.  He  confirmed  the  decision  of  Judge 
Lee,  &  the  Bond  was  finally  paid.  This  was  a  Trial  of 
great  interest  to  both  Parties.  Mr  M°Duffie  of  very  high 
reputation  for  talents,  was  sent  for  &  came  down  from 
Abbe-ville  to  engage  in  the  defence,  &  Mr  Petigru  volun- 
teered in  behalf  of  the  Union  Party  to  aid  Mr  Gilchrist 
the  then  District  Attorney  in  prosecuting  the  Suit. 

"  Two  other  causes  arose  in  the  State  Circuit  Courts,  & 
were  both  carried  by  appeal  up  to  the  Supreme  Court. 
These  both  originated  in  the  Test  Oath  Act.  Both  were 
argued  ably  in  Columbia  at  the  Court  of  Appeals.  Judges 
O'Neal  &  Davd  Johnson  decided  against  the  constitutionality 
of  the  Test  Oath.  Judge  Harper  was  in  favor  of  it,  but  did 
not  enter  upon  much  argument  on  the  subject. 

"  It  will  be  recollected  that  in  the  Ordinance  of  the  Con- 
vention &  in  the  Act  of  the  S°  Cara  Legislature  dated  Dec* 
1832  it  was  provided  that  no  Duties  should  be  paid  on  Impor- 
tations from  foreign  Countries  into  S°  Car*  after  the  lrt 
Feby  1833.  These  were  published  as  the  Laws  of  S°  Car*, 
which  none  could  violate  with  impunity,  &  none  but  the 
Courts  of  Law  could  set  aside.  Notwithstanding  the  for- 
mality &  force  of  these  enactments,  a  number  of  the  State 
Rights  Party  in  Cha'ton  resolved  to  hold  a  Meeting  of 
their  Associates  on  the  21st  Jany  1833,  only  ten  days  pre- 
ceding the  time  appointed  by  the  high  Authorities  of  the 
State,  for  resisting  the  Power  of  the  Union  in  collecting  the 
duties  on  such  importations.  That  informal  Party  meeting 
resolved  that  such  resistance  was  inexpedient  at  that  time, 
&  must  be  postponed  until  the  adjournment  of  the  next 
Congress.  That  meeting  of  only  a  part  of  the  State  Rights 
Party,  resolved  to  nullify  the  proceedings  of  their  whole 
Party,  in  the  Convention  &  in  the  Legislature,  &  to  suspend 
the  execution  of  their  euactraents ;  &  this  nullification  was 
acquiesced  in  by  the  rest  of  their  party.1 

1 "  A  direct  attempt  to  evade  the  payment  of  Duties  to  the  Government 
about  this  time  was  made  by  Gen1  Jaa  Hamilton.  He  shipped  some  of  his 
own  Rice  to  Havannah  &  ordered  the  proceeds  to  be  returned  in  Sugar. 
The  Sugar  arrived  &  the  Vessel  was  brought  to  anchor  in  the  appointed 
place,  by  the  Vigilant  Captain  of  the  Cutter.  Gen1  Hamilton  would 
not  enter  or  bond  it,  or  pay  the  Duties  hoping  that  it  would  be  landed 
in  Cha'ton  &  he  obtain  possession  by  some  means.  But  Mr  Pringle  the 
Collector  arranged  it  otherwise,  he  ordered  the  Sugar  to  be  landed 
on  Sullivan's  Island  &  stored  in  Fort  Moultrie  in  one  of  its  arched 
entrances.    Hamilton  had  been  heard  saying  to  some  of  his  Adherents, 


54  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

"  At  this  time  the  State  of  Virginia  resolved  to  mediate 
&  appease  the  dissensions  in  S°  Cara,  &  sent  for  that  pur- 
pose one  of  her  most  distinguished  Citizens  Benjn  "Watkins 
Leigh  to  bear  the  Olive  Branch.  He  arrived  on  the  4th 
Feby  &  proceeded  with  great  tact  &  judgment.  He  was 
kindly  &  courteously  received  by  both  of  the  contending 
Parties,  &  mediated  personally  with  the  most  distinguished 
leaders  on  both  sides.  Great  deference  &  respect  was 
paid  to  him  not  only  for  his  personal  worth,  but  as  an  es- 
pecial Messenger  from  the  State  of  Virginia.  It  was  accord- 
ingly arranged  that  another  Convention  should  be  convened, 
&  that  no  violent  measures  should  be  pursued  in  the  in- 
terim. The  Convention  met  accordingly  on  the  11th  March 
1833  &  Gov.  Hayne  brought  the  business  before  them  by 
inclosing  the  friendly  &  flattering  letter  which  he  had  re- 
ceived from  Mr  Leigh — Commissioner  from  Virginia.  This 
was  referred  to  a  Com168  of  21,  who  promptly  reported  an 
Ordinance  repealing  the  Ordinance  of  ]STovr  1832,  &  this 
was  adopted  by  the  Convention.  But  many  of  the  members 
could  not  divest  themselves  of  the  irritation  long  enter- 
tained, &  of  their  purposes  defeated.  These  were  leveled 
against  the  Union  Party,  &  of  their  sense  of  obligation  of 
allegiance  to  the  Federal  Government.  Some  warm  discus- 
sion ensued  &  some  intemperate  expressions  used,  but  the 
majority  concurred  in  accepting  Mr  Clay's  Bill  which  had 
passed  in  Congress,  as  a  compromise  of  their  difference 
with  the  Federal  Government. 

"  But  as  to  the  Law  imposing  a  Test  Oath,  the  State  Rights 
Party  were  disappointed  in  its  validity  by  the  decisions  of 
the  Courts.  They  therefore  determined  so  to  amend  the 
Constitution  as  to  require  of  every  one  holding  an  Office, 
that  he  should  previously  take  an  Oath  that  his  Allegiance 
to  S°  Carolina  would  be  considered  by  him  paramount  to 
all  other  obligations.  A  clause  to  this  effect  actually  passed 
the  Legislature  in  Nov1 1833  but  as  an  Amendment  of  the 
Constitution,  it  was  necessary  that  the  same  should  be  recon- 
sidered &  ratified  at  another  session  of  the  Legislature. 
The  prospect  of  this  becoming  a  part  of  the  Constitution 
alarmed  the  Union  Party  in  S°  C*  particularly  in  the  North- 
ern parts  of  the  State,  lest  they  should  be  involved  by  it  in 
Disunion,  &  cease  to  be  Citizens  of  the  United  States,  or 
fail  to  be  protected  in  case  of  need  by  the  Federal  Gov*. 

'  We  will  have  to  fight  for  that  Sugar.'  He  no  doubt  hoped  for  some 
opportunity  to  do  so,  but  none  offered  &  after  the  Compromise  he  paid 
the  Duty  &  storage,  on  which  the  Sugars  were  given  up  to  him.'' 


The  Life  and  Semices  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  55 

The  Union  Party  determined  to  resist  this  change  in  the 
Constitution,  &  if  it  should  finally  pass,  that  they  would 
appeal  to  arms  in  defence  of  their  Rights  as  American 
Citizens.  Spartanburgh  was  appointed  as  their  place  of 
Rendezvous,  &  in  this  state  of  anxious  suspense  they  awaited 
the  Legislative  Action.  The  Central  Corn'89  determined  to 
try  the  effect  of  personal  influence,  talent  &  address  to  pre- 
vent the  impending  evils  of  Civil  War.  They  appointed 
Mr  J.  L.  Petigru  &  Col.  R.  Blanding  to  meet  their  former 
friends  at  the  Session  in  Columbia  and  prevent  if  possible 
the  contemplated  enactment.  They  attended  accordingly  & 
in  personal  interviews  and  conferences  with  Gen1  Ja8  Ham- 
ilton &  other  influential  persons  of  the  State  Rights  Party, 
they  finally  succeeded  but  with  great  difficulty.  The  Clause 
adopted  at  the  previous  meeting  of  the  Legislature  as  an 
amendment  of  the  Constitution,  was  insisted  on  by  its 
former  advocates,  it  could  neither  be  rejected  nor  altered, 
but  they  consented  that  the  following  Proviso  should  be 
appended  as  a  part  of  it.  '  Provided  however  that  noth- 
ing expressed  in  the  above  obligation  shall  be  construed  to 
impair  the  Allegiance  of  any  Citizen  of  S°  Carolina  to  the 
Federal  Government.'  Or  words  to  that  effect,  for  by  some 
obliquity  in  the  Record  or  in  the  Publication  of  the  Laws, 
this  Proviso  has  not  been  printed  with  the  Ratification. 

"Both  parties  assented  to  this  compromise  Peace  was  again 
restored  to  S°  Carolina  &  Gen1  McDuflie  was  elected  Gover- 
nor in  Decr  1834." 

The  foregoing  account  presents  a  vivid  picture  of  the  po- 
sition taken  by  the  Union  men  in  South  Carolina  during  the 
Nullification  excitement.  Nothing  is  more  remarkable  about 
it  than  the  spirit  of  obedience  which  they  showed  for  the 
supreme  law  of  the  land,  because  it  was  the  law,  and  their 
determination  to  appeal  for  relief  to  the  law  only  as  it  had 
been  administered  among  them  from  the  period  of  the  adop- 
tion of  the  Constitution,  as  well  as  their  unwillingness  to 
rouse  revolutionary  passions  in  the  conflict.  The  action  of 
their  State  had  not  merely  made  void  an  act  of  Congress, — 
creating  an  alleged  grievance  from  which  the  rest  of  the 
country  suffered  in  common  with  them, — but  its  effect  was  to 
deny  them  the  protection  of  their  own  courts  and  virtually 
to  disfranchise  them.  Under  these  trying  circumstances  they 
were  bold  but  not  boastful,  and,  unmoved  by  the  clamor  of 


56  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

their  former  friends  and  neighbors,  they  formed  the  strongest 
support  to  the  General  Government  when  it  put  forth  its 
strong  arm  to  help  them.  A  good  deal  of  their  forbearance 
and  determination  to  confine  their  action  within  the  strict 
limits  of  the  law  was  due  to  the  personal  character  of  their 
leaders.  They  belonged  to  the  very  elite  of  that  social  aris- 
tocracy which  held  undisputed  sway  in  Carolina  up  to  the 
period  of  the  war  of  the  rebellion,  and  their  opponents, 
whose  chiefs  were  of  the  same  class,  and  who  had  known 
them  well  during  their  whole  lives,  always  recognized  not 
merely  the  force  and  earnestness  of  their  convictions,  but 
also  their  personal  courage  and  the  perfect  purity  and  in- 
tegrity of  their  motives. 

In  considering  their  methods  of  resistance  to  the  law- 
less acts  of  the  Nullifiers,  the  first  question  for  the  Union 
men  to  determine  was  how  far  and  in  what  way  they  would 
be  supported  by  the  General  Government.  All  parties  in 
South  Carolina  had  concurred  in  voting  for  General  Jack- 
son as  President  in  1828,  and  he  was  well  known  at  that 
time  to  have  favored  the  enactment  of  a  tariff  law  which 
would  levy  only  such  an  amount  of  money  as  would  suffice 
to  defray  the  expenses  of  the  Government  and  pay  the  in- 
terest on  the  public  debt.  The  intending  Nullifiers  during 
the  year  1830,  well  knowing  General  Jackson's  opposition 
to  the  "  American  system,"  as  it  was  called,  spread  far  and 
wide  the  report  not  only  that  the  President  and  many  of 
his  personal  and  political  friends  sympathized  with  them  in 
their  opposition  to  a  protective  tariff,  but  also  that  he  would 
hesitate  to  execute  a  Federal  law  in  South  Carolina  which 
the  people  of  that  State  should  declare  to  be  inoperative 
within  her  borders.  The  first  thing,  therefore,  naturally 
was  to  ascertain  the  exact  position  of  the  President  on  this 
question.  Mr.  Poinsett,  as  their  leader  and  organ,  accord- 
ingly wrote  the  following  letter  to  President  Jackson  : 

"  Charleston  23  Oct'.  1830 
"  Dear  Sir 

"  When  we  parted  at  Washington  in  May  last,  I  men- 
tioned to  you,  that  I  was  returning  to  Carolina  in  order  to 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  57 

oppose,  by  every  influence  I  might  possess  there,  the  strange 
and  pernicious  doctrines  advanced  by  some  of  the  leading 
men  of  our  state  and  which,  if  not  counteracted  might 
lead  to  the  most  serious  and  fatal  consequences.  On  that 
occasion  I  understood  you  to  say,  that  you  regarded  them 
as  '  utter  madness ;'  and  I  left  Washington  in  the  firm  con- 
viction, that  I  was  acting  in  conformity  with  your  wishes 
and  for  the  good  of  our  common  country  in  controverting 
doctrines,  which  I  regard  as  subversive  of  the  best  interests 
of  that  country,  and  in  declaring  myself  opposed  to  princi- 
ples which,  if  they  could  be  detected  in  the  letter  or  spirit 
of  our  constitution  by  any  subtlety  of  the  human  intellect, 
would  render  that  instrument  a  worthless  document,  would 
entirely  destroy  the  practical  utility  of  our  confederation 
and  convert  our  bond  of  union  into  a  rope  of  sand. 

"  On  my  arrival  in  Columbia,  where  I  went  in  order  to 
ascertain  the  extent  of  the  evil,  and  that  my  sentiments 
might  be  more  generally  known  throughout  the  State,  I 
found  the  public  mind  poisoned  by  the  opinions  uttered  at 
Washington  by  our  leading  politicians  there,  and  by  the 
pernicious  doctrines  of  the  President  of  the  College,  Dr. 
Cooper,  whose  talents  and  great  acquirements  give  weight 
to  his  perverse  principles,  and  make  him  doubly  dangerous. 
On  conversing  confidentially  with  several  old  and  valued 
friends  in  that  place  I  found  that  they  too,  deprecated  the 
measures  proposed  to  be  adopted  as  a  remedy  against  the 
operation  of  the  tariff" law;  but  regarded  opposition  as  hope- 
less against  such  an  array  as  had  declared  in  favor  of  nullifica- 
tion. I  found  the  same  sentiments  prevailing  and  the  same 
fears  entertained  among  the  moderate  men  in  Charleston ; 
but  after  frequent  conferences  with  my  friends  Judge  Huger, 
Mr.  Petigru,  Mr.  Pringle,  Dr.  Johnson  and  others  it  was  re- 
solved at  all  hazards  to  organize  an  opposition  to  schemes 
which  we  considered  likely  to  prove  so  ruinous  in  their 
consequences.  In  this  determination  we  were  confirmed 
and  very  much  aided  by  Col.  Drayton's  honorable  and  pub- 
lic declaration  of  his  sentiments  in  favor  of  the  union. 

"The  Nullifiers  try  to  make  us  believe  that  the  union 
party  are  acting  against  your  wishes.  This  has  been 
already  and  on  several  occasions  broadly  asserted  by  the 
advocates  of  the  rights  of  the  states  to  nullify  the  laws  of 
the  general  government  and  besides  the  respectable  names 
of  the  Vice  Prest.,  of  W.  M°Duflie,  Gen1  Hayne  and 
Major  Hamilton  we  have  had  to  contend  against  these  as- 
sertions of  your  views  on  this  question,  which  the  censure 


58  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

or  dismissal  of  Mr  Pringle  would  tend  to  confirm,  for  he  is 
I  believe  the  only  officer  of  the  general  gov.  in  Charleston 
in  favor  of  the  Union  party.  The  opposition  which  was 
commenced  in  Charleston  has  been  extended  throughout 
the  rest  of  the  state  and  the  favorable  result  of  the  elec- 
tions leads  us  to  hope,  that  we  shall  prevent  the  call  of  a 
convention,  which  might  have  ended  in  an  act  of  insurrec- 
tion, for  I  can  regard  in  no  other  light  the  consequences  of 
this  state  nullifying  an  act  of  Congress.  It  has  been  as- 
serted of  us  that  we  have  been  induced  to  oppose  ourselves 
to  these  doctrines  because  we  are  in  favor  of  Mr.  Clay  and 
of  the  American  system.  This  Mr.  President  is  not  so.  Mr. 
Clay  and  his  system  have  no  partizans  in  this  state  &  so  en- 
tirely do  we  rely  upon  your  wisdom  and  sense  of  justice 
that  we  hoped  that  you  would  finally  obtain  for  us  a  modi- 
fication of  the  system  wb  really  is  injurious  and  oppressive 
in  its  operation  upon  us.  We  severally  and  universally 
desire,  that  you  should  consent  to  serve  another  term." 

It  seems,  however,  that  a  similar  letter  referring  to  the 

rumor  prevalent  in  South  Carolina  had  been  written  about 

the  same  time  to  the  President  by  Mr.  Kobert  Oliver,  of 

Baltimore.     To  this  letter  General  Jackson  at  once  replied, 

and  his  answer  may  be  regarded  as  intended  not  only  for 

him  but  for  Mr.  Poinsett  also. 

"  Washington,  Octobr.  26th  1830 

"Dear  Sir 

"  I  had  the  honour  this  evening  to  receive  your  letter  of 
the  25th  instant  with  its  enclosure  and  agreeable  to  your 
request  herewith  return  it,  with  a  tender  of  my  thanks  for 
this  token  of  your  friendship  &  regard. 

"  I  had  supposed  that  every  one  acquainted  with  me  knew 
that  I  was  opposed  to  the  nulifying  Doctrine,  and  my  toast 
at  the  JefTerson  dinner  was  sufficient  evidence  of  the  fact. 
I  am  convinced  there  is  not  one  member  of  Congress  who 
is  not  convinced  of  this  fact  for  on  all  occasions  I  have  been 
open  &  free  upon  this  subject.  The  South  Carolinians,  as 
a  whole,  are  too  patriotic  to  adopt  such  mad  projects  as  the 
nulifyers  of  that  State  propose. 

"  That  Mr  Van  Buren  should  be  suspected  of  such  opinions 
is  equally  strange. 

"  I  am  sir  with  great  respect 

"  &  regard,  your  mo  obdt  servt 

"Andrew  Jackson 

"  Robert  Oliver  Esq." 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  59 

The  "  Jefferson  dinner"  to  which  General  Jackson  refers 
was  an  entertainment  given  on  the  15th  of  April,  1880,  in 
"Washington,  to  celebrate  Mr.  Jefferson's  birthday.  The 
occasion  was  secretly  and  adroitly  taken  advantage  of  by 
the  Nullifiers  and  those  who  sympathized  with  them  to 
obtain  from  the  leaders  of  the  Democratic  party  in  Wash- 
ington, and  especially  from  the  members  of  the  Cabinet,  an 
expression  of  opinion  that  their  proceedings  would  not  be 
interfered  with  by  the  General  Government.  The  President 
was  a  guest  at  this  dinner,  and  he  was  not  long  in  discover- 
ing what  was  expected  of  him  by  many  of  those  present. 
He  is  said  to  have  sat  stern  and  silent,  evidently  trying  hard 
to  suppress  the  violent  emotions  which  agitated  him.  He 
found  relief  when  called  upon  for  a  toast,  when  he  rose  and 
said  calmly  but  most  earnestly  to  the  astounded  assembly 
who  had  hoped  to  entrap  him,  "  The  Federal  Union — it 
must  be  preserved."  The  Vice-President,  Mr.  Calhoun, 
was  then  called  upon,  and  this  was  his  toast:  "  The  Union, 
— next  to  our  liberty  the  most  dear.  May  we  all  remember 
that  it  can  only  be  preserved  by  respecting  the  rights  of  the 
States,  and  distributing  equally  the  benefit  and  the  burthen 
of  the  Union." 

The  day  of  this  Jefferson  celebration  seems  to  me  one  of 
the  most  noteworthy  in  our  history.  On  that  day  the  issue 
between  the  Union  and  the  Disunion  parties  was  distinctly 
and  finally  made  up  ;  each  party  prepared  for  the  inevitable 
conflict,  and  each  knew  under  what  leader  it  would  serve. 
General  Jackson's  honesty  and  inflexible  will  were  even  then 
pretty  well  understood  by  those  friends  and  foes  who  had  for 
their  own  reasons  studied  his  character,  and  it  became  now 
clear  to  all  that  the  Union  men  in  South  Carolina,  in  their 
struggle  for  the  supremacy  of  the  Federal  law,  would  be 
supported  by  the  whole  force  of  the  General  Government, 
with  the  President  at  its  head.  The  Nullifiers  had  foiled 
utterly  in  securing  that  sympathy  of  the  administration 
upon  which  they  had  so  fully  counted.  They  were  so  much 
discouraged  and  disappointed  that,  although  violent  and 
revolutionary  talk  was  still  the  fashion  in  South  Carolina, 


60  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

no  active  efforts  were  made  there  to  carry  out  their  plans 
until  more  than  two  years  later.  Meanwhile,  the  Union 
party  in  South  Carolina  was  much  encouraged  in  organizing 
its  powers  of  resistance. 

In  July,  1832,  Congress  passed  an  act  reducing  the  duties 
levied  by  the  tariff  of  1828  on  certain  articles,  and  remov- 
ing them  entirely  from  tea,  coffee,  etc.,  by  which  it  was  cal- 
culated that  the  revenue  from  customs  would  be  reduced 
three  or  four  millions  of  dollars,  or  from  twenty  to  twenty- 
five  per  cent.  When  Congress  met  in  December,  1832,  it 
was  proposed  by  the  Committee  of  Ways  and  Means  still 
further  to  reduce  the  revenue  levied  under  the  act  of  1828 
about  thirteen  millions  of  dollars.  General  Jackson  was 
re-elected  President  by  a  great  majority  in  the  autumn  of 
1832,  and  a  sufficiently  large  number  of  members  of  the 
Congress  which  was  to  meet  in  December,  1833,  had  been 
chosen  at  the  same  time  to  render  it  apparent  that  the  anti- 
tariff  party  would  be  largely  in  the  majority  in  that  Con- 
gress. Notwithstanding  all  these  concessions  present  and 
prospective  to  the  Free-trade  party,  and  apparently  in  total 
contempt  for  the  spirit  of  conciliation  which  was  manifested 
by  them  in  every  part  of  the  country,  the  leaders  in  South 
Carolina  determined  upon  revolutionary  proceedings.  These 
proceedings,  no  doubt,  confirmed  the  belief  which  had 
widely  prevailed,  that  the  cause  of  discontent  in  that  State 
lay  far  deeper  than  the  tariff,  and  that  its  removal  would 
not  remedy  it.  On  the  24th  of  November,  1832,  the  con- 
vention in  South  Carolina  adopted  the  ordinance  of  nullifi- 
cation and  threatened  secession,  and  the  Legislature  imme- 
diately afterwards  passed  laws  to  enforce  its  provisions. 
These  measures  are  so  fully  described  in  Dr.  Johnson's 
narrative  that  it  is  not  necessary  to  explain  them  further 
here.  Their  effect  was  not  only  to  place  the  State  in  a 
hostile  attitude  to  the  Government  of  the  United  States, 
but  also  to  place  those  citizens  of  the  State  who  were  loyal 
to  the  Union  beyond  the  pale  of  the  protection  of  the  State 
laws.  Under  these  circumstances  the  Union  men  of  South 
Carolina,  through  Mr.  Poinsett,  appealed  to  the  Government 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  61 

for  advice  as  to  the  course  which  they  as  supporters  of  the 
Union  should  pursue,  and  for  aid  in  resisting  these  measures 
should  it  become  necessary.     How  this  appeal  was  met  by 
the  President  is  best  told  in  the  eight  letters  addressed  by 
him  to  Mr.  Poinsett,  which,  as  far  as  we  know,  are  now 
printed  for  the  first  time.     It  is  thought  better  to  give  them 
in  a  connected  series  as  presenting  the  most  faithful  picture 
of  the  attitude  of  the  President  during  the  whole  of  this 
unhappy  dispute,  from  the  beginning  until  all  danger  of 
an  armed  resistance  to  the  execution  of  the  laws  of  the 
United  States  had  passed  away.     As  soon  as  the  ordinance 
of  nullification  reached  the  President,  he  issued,  on  the  10th 
of  December,  1832,  his  proclamation  denouncing  the  revo- 
lutionary proceedings  in  South  Carolina,  and  expressing  his 
determination  to  execute  the  laws  of  the  Government  of  the 
United  States.     Early  in  January  he  sent  a  special  message 
to   Congress  asking  that  specific  powers  should  be  given 
him  to  close  any  port  in  South  Carolina  where  armed  re- 
sistance should  be  made  to  the  collection  of  import  duties, 
and  during  such  suspension  to  establish  custom-houses  in 
places  on  land  or  on  naval  vessels  in  harbors  where  such 
resistance  was  not  to  be  expected.     The  Judiciary  Commit- 
tee  reported   a   bill,  commonly  called    the  "Force  Bill," 
giving  him  the  powers  he  asked  for,  but  this  bill  was  not 
passed  until  the  close  of  the  session  in  March.     Indeed, 
from  the  view  which  General  Jackson  had  of  his  duty  it 
was  hardly  necessary.     The  President,  as  will  be  seen  by 
his  letters,  needed  no  act  of  Congress  either  to  shield  him 
from  responsibility  or  to  give  him  authority  to  perform  the 
constitutional  duty  he  had  assumed  "  faithfully  to  execute 
the  laws."     But  the  story  is  best  told  in  his  letters : 

(No.  1.) 

"  (Confidential) 

.,  -p.         „  "  Washington,  Novbr  7th  1832. 

"  Dear  Sir, 

"  This  will  be  handed  to  you  by  my  young  friend  George 
Breathitt  Esqr,  brother  of  the  present  Governor  of  Ken- 


62  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

tucky,  in  whom  every  confidence  may  be  reposed.     I  beg 
leave  to  make  him  known  to  you  as  such. 

"  Mr  Breathitt  goes  to  your  state  &  city  as  agent  for  the 
post  office  Depart,  he  bears  instructions  from  the  secretary 
of  the  Treasury  to  the  collector  of  Charleston,  but  we  want 
him  only  known  as  agent  of  the  Post  office. 

"  I  wish  him  to  see  the  Fta  and  revenue  cutters  in  your 
harbour  and  to  visit  Sullivan's  Island.  This  to  be  done 
merely  as  a  stranger  having  curiosity  to  examine  your  capa- 
city for  defence  and  facilities  for  commerce,  to  your  polite 
aid  I  recomend  him  for  this  object. 

"  I  have  instructed  him  to  obtain  the  real  intentions  of 
the  nullifyers  whether  they  mean  really  to  resort  to  force  to 
prevent  the  collection  of  the  revenue  and  to  resist  the  due 
execution  of  the  laws  and  if  so  what  proof  exists  to  show 
that  the  imputations  against  important  individuals  and  offi- 
cers of  the  government  in  being  engaged  in  advising,  aiding 
and  abetting  in  this  threatened  nullification  and  rebellious 
course  are  true. 

"  It  is  desirable  that  the  Executive  should  be  in  posses- 
sion of  all  the  evidence  on  these  points,  and  I  have  referred 
Mr.  Breathitt  to  you  &  Col.  Drayton  believing  that  you  will 
afford  him  all  the  knowledge  you  possess. 

"  Mr.  Breathitt  is  charged  with  the  enquiry  what  officers, 
if  any,  in  the  Customs  or  post  office  Department  belong  to 
or  have  adhered  to  the  Nullifyers— and  the  character  of  Mr. 
Pruson  Simpson  from  whom  I  have  recd  a  long  letter  to 
day,  and  all  &  every  information  of  the  views  and  measures 
of  the  Nullifyers  which  they  mean  to  adopt. 

"  We  have  been  looking  for  some  information  from  some 
friend  of  the  Union  in  that  quarter  but  have  hitherto  been 
disappointed,  but  it  appears  a  crisis  is  about  to  approach 
when  the  government  must  act,  &  that  with  energy — my 
own  astonishment  is  that  my  fellow  citizens  of  S°  Carolina 
should  be  so  far  deluded,  by  the  wild  theory  and  sophistry 
of  a  few  ambitious  demagogues,  as  to  place  themselves  in 
the  attitude  of  rebellion  against  their  Government,  and  be- 
come the  destroyers  of  their  own  prosperity^  and  liberty. 
There  appears  in  their  whole  proceedings  nothing  but  mad- 
ness and  folly.  If  grievances  do  exist  there  are  constitu- 
tional means  to  redress  them— Patriots  would  seek  those 
means  only. 

"  The  duty  of  the  Executive  is  a  plain  one,  the  laws  will 
be  executed  and  the  Union  preserved  by  all  the  constitu- 
tional and  legal  means  he  is  invested  with,  and  I  rely  with 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  12.  Poinsett.  63 

great  confidence  on  the  support  of  every  honest  patriot  in 
S°  Carolina  who  really  loves  his  country  and  the  prosperity 
and  happiness  we  enjoy  under  our  happy  and  peaceful  re- 
publican government. 

"By  the  return  of  Mr.  Breathitt  I  shall  expect  to  hear  from 
you. 

"  With  my  sincere  regards 

"  I  am  yr  mo.  obdt  serv4 

_,  "  Andrew  Jackson 

"  Joel  Poinsett  Escf." 

(No.  2.) 
"MY  D-  SIR,  "  December  2<  1832. 

"Your  two   letters  of  Nov.  24   &   25th  last  have   been 
received  and  I  hasten  to  answer  them. 

t  "I/ull7  concur  with  you  in  your  views  of  nullification. 
It  leads  directly  to  civil  war  and  bloodshed  and  deserves  the 
execration  of  every  friend  of  the  country.  Should  the  civil 
power  with  your  aid  as  a  posse  comitatus  prove  not  strono- 
enough  to  carry  into  effect  the  laws  of  the  Union  you  have  a 
right  to  call  upon  the  Government  for  aid  and  the  executive 
will  yield,  it  as  far  as  he  has  been  vested  with  the  power  by 
the  constitution  and  the  laws  made  in  pursuance  thereof. 

"The  precautionary  measures  spoken  of  in  your  last 
letter  have  been  in  some  degree  anticipated.  Five  thousand 
stand  of  muskets  with  corresponding  equipments  have  been 
ordered  to  Castle  Pinckney ;  and  a  Sloop  of  war  with  a 
smaller  armed  vessel  (the  Experiment)  will  reach  Charles- 
ton harbor  in  due  time.  The  commanding  officer  of  Castle 
Pinckney  will  be  instructed  by  the  Secretary  of  War  to 
deliver  the  arms  and  their  equipment  to  your  order,  takino- 
a  receipt  for  them  and  should  the  emergency  arise  he  wifl 
furnish  to  your  requisition  such  ordnance  and  ordnance 
stores  as  can  be  spared  from  the  arsenals. 

"  The  Union  must  be  preserved  and  its  laws  duly  executed, 
but  by  proper  means.  With  calmness  and  firmness  such  as 
becomes  those  who  are  conscious  of  being  right  and  are 
conscious  of  the  support  of  public  opinion  we  must  perform 
our  duties  without  suspecting  that  there  are  those  around  us 
desiring  to  tempt  us  with  the  wrong.  We  must  act  as  the 
instruments  of  the  law  and  if  force  is  offered  to  us  in  that 
capacity  then  we  shall  repel  it  with  the  certainty,  that 
even  should  we  fall  as  individuals  the  friends  of  liberty  and 
union  will  still  be  strong  enough  to  prostrate  their  enemies. 


64  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  It.  Poinsett. 

Your  Union  men  should  act  in  concert.     Their  designation 
as  Unionists  should  teach  them  to  be  prepared  for  every 
emergency :  and  inspire  them  with  the  energy  to  overcome 
any  impediment  that  may  be  thrown  in  the  way  of  the  laws 
of  their  constitution,  whose  cause  is  now  not  only  their  cause 
but  that  of  free  institutions  throughout  the  world.     They 
should  recollect  that  perpetuity  is  stamped  upon  the  consti- 
tution by  the  blood  of  our  Fathers,  by  those  who  achieved 
as  well  as  those  who  improved  our  system  of  free  Govern- 
ment.    For  this  purpose  was  the  principle  of  amendment 
inserted  in  the  constitution  which  all  have  sworn  to  support 
and  in  violation  of  which  no  state  or  states  have  the  right  to 
secede,  much  less  to  dissolve  the  union.     Nullification  there- 
fore means  insurrection  and  war ;  and  the  other  states  have 
a  right  to  put  it  down.     And  you  also  and  all  other  peace- 
able citizens  have  a  right  to  aid  in  the  same  patriotic  object 
when  summoned  by  the  violated  laws  of  the  land.     Should 
an  emergency  occur  for  the  arms  before  the  order  of  the 
Secretary  of  War  to  the  commanding  officer  to  deliverthem 
to  your  order,  show  this  to  him  &  he  will  yield  a  compliance 

"  I  am  great  haste 

"  Yr  ms  obdt  servt. 


"Andrew  Jackson 


'•J.  R.  Poinsett  Esq1." 

(No.  3.) 

Decbr  9th  1832,  Washington. 

"  My  Db  Sir, 

"Your  letters  were  this  moment  reed,  from  the  hands 
of  Col.  Drayton,  read  &  duly  considered,  and  in  haste  I 
reply.  The  true  spirit  of  patriotism  that  they  breathe 
fills  me  with  pleasure.  If  the  Union  party  unite  with  you, 
heart  &  hand  in  the  text  you  have  laid  down,  you  will  not 
only  preserve  the  Union,  but  save  our  native  state,  from 
that  ruin  and  disgrace  into  which  her  treasonable  leaders 
have  attempted  to  plunge  her.  All  the  means  in  my  power, 
I  will  employ  to  enable  her  own  citizens,  those  faithful 
patriots,  who  cling  to  the  union,  to  put  it  down. 

"  The  proclamation  I  have  this  day  issued,  &  which  I  en- 
close you,  will  give  you  my  views;  Of  the  treasonable  con- 
duct of  the  convention  &  the  Governors  recommendation 
to  the  assembly— it  is  not  merely  rebellion,  but  the  act  of 
raising  troops  positive  treason,  and  I  am  assured  by  all  the 
members  of  congress  with  whom  I  have  conversed  that  I 
will  be  sustained  by  congress.     If  so  I  will  meet  it  at  the 


The  IAfe  and  Services  of  Joel  H.  Poinsett.  65 

threshold,  and  have  the  leaders  arrested  and  arraigned  for 
treason — I  am  only  waiting  to  be  furnished  with  the  acts 
of  your  Legislature,  to  make  a  communication  to  congress, 
ask  the  means  necessary  to  carry  my  proclamation  into 
complete  effect,  and  by  an  exemplary  punishment  of  those 
leaders  for  treason  so  unprovoked,  put  down  this  rebellion, 
&  strengthen  our  happy  Government  both  at  home  and 
abroad. 

"  My  former  letter  &  the  communication  from  the  Dept 
of  "War,  will  have  informed  you  of  the  arms  and  equipments 
having  been  laid  in  Deposit  subject  to  your  requisition,  to 
aid  the  civil  authority  in  the  due  execution  of  the  law, 
whenever  called  on  as  the  posse  comitatus  $-c  $c. 

"  The  vain  threats  of  resistance  by  those  who  have  raised 
the  standard  of  rebellion  show  their  madness  &  folly.  You 
may  assure  those  patriots,  who  cling  to  their  country,  & 
this  Union,  which  alone  secures  our  liberty  &  prosperity 
and  happiness,  that  in  forty  days,  I  can  have  within  the 
limits  of  S°  Carolina  fifty  thousand  men,  and  in  forty  days 
more  another  fifty  thousand.  How  impotent  the  threat 
of  resistance  with  only  a  population  of  250,000  whites  & 
nearly  that  double  in  blacks,  with  our  ships  in  the  port,  to 
aid  in  the  execution  of  our  laws !  The  wickedness,  mad- 
ness &  folly  of  the  leaders  and  the  delusion  of  their  followers, 
in  the  attempt  to  destroy  themselves  and  our  union  has  not 
its  paralell  in  the  history  of  the  world — The  Union  will  be 
preserved.  The  safety  of  the  republic,  the  supreme  law, 
which  will  be  promptly  obeyed  by  me. 

"I  will  be  happy  to  hear  from  you  often,  thro'  Col. 
Mason  or  his  son,  if  you  think  the  post  office  unsafe. 

"  I  am  with  sincere  respect 

"  Yr  mo.  obdt.  servt. 
"Andrew  Jackson 

"  Mr  Poinsett" 


"  (Private) 


(No.  4.) 

"  Washington,  Jan1*  16th  1833. 
"  My  Db  Sir, 

"  This  day  I  have  communicated  to  both  houses  of  Con- 
gress the  Enclosed  message,  which  has  been  referred  to  the 
committees  on  the  judiciary,  who,  we  have  a  right  to  be- 
lieve, will  promptly  report  a  bill  giving  all  the  power  asked 
for. 

"  I  have  recd  several  letters  from  gentlemen  in  S°  Caro- 

5 


66  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

lina,  requesting  to  be  famished  with  the  means  of  defence. 
Mr  I  Graham,  an  old  revolutionary  patriot,  a  Mr  Harrison 
and  Col  Levy— I  have  requested  Genl  Blair  to  inform  Col 
Levy  to  apply  to  you  &  I  request  that  you  will  make  it 
known  confidentially,  that  when  necessary,  you  are  author- 
ized, &  will  furnish  the  necessary  means  of  defence. 

"  Mr.  Calhoun  let  off  a  little  of  his  ire  against  me  to  day 
in  the  Senate,  but  was  so  agitated,  &  confused  that  he  made 
quite  a  failure,  was  replied  to,  with  great  dignity  &  firmness, 
by  Major  Forsyth — Calhoun  finds  himself  between  Scylla  & 
Charybdis  &  is  reckless— My  great  desire  is  that  the  union 
men  may  put  nullification  &  secession  down  in  S°  Carolina 
themselves  and  save  the  character  of  the  state,  &  add  there- 
by to  the  stability  of  our  Union— you  can  rely  on  every  aid 
that  I  can  give— only  advise  me  of  the  action  of  the  nulli- 
fyers—  The  moment  they  are  in  hostile  array  in  opposition 
to  the  execution  of  the  laws,  let  it  be  certified  to  me,  by  the 
atty  for  the  District  or  the  Judge,  and  I  will  forthwith  order 
the  leaders  prosecuted,  &  arrested— if  the  Marshal  is  resisted 
by  12,000  bayonets,  I  will  have  his  possee  24,000 — but  the 
moment  this  rebellious  faction  finds  it  is  opposed  by  the 
good  people  of  that  state,  with  a  resolution  becoming  free 
men  and  worthy  the  name  of  Americans  and  under  the  pro- 
tection of  the  union  it  will  yield  to  the  power  of  the  land, 
and  they  will  return  to  their  obedience. 

"  I  write  in  great  haste,  late  at  night,  and  much  fatigued, 
&  indisposed  by  a  bad  cold— You  will  excuse  this  scrawl  it 
is  for  your  own  eye — write  me  often,  ^  give  me  the  earliest 
intelligence  of  the  first  armed  force  that  appears  in  the  field 
to  sustain  the  ordinance— The  first  act  of  treason  committed, 
unites  to  it,  all  those  who  have  aided  &  abetted  in  the  execu- 
tion to  the  act— we  will  strike  at  the  head  and  demolish  the 
monster,  Nullification  &  secession,  at  the  threshold  by  the 

power  of  the  law. 

"  I  am  very  respectfully 

"  yr  mo.  obdt  servt 

"  Andrew  Jackson 

"  Joel  R.  Poinsett  EsqV 

(No.  5.) 

Washington  January  24th  1833. 

"My  Dear  Sir, 

"  I  have  recd  yours  of  the  16th  19th  &  20th  instant,  that  of 
the  16th  late  last  night  &  hasten  to  reply  by  the  return  ex- 
press which  will  leave  here  early  to-morrow. 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  67 

"  My  Message  to  Congress,  forwarded  to  you  by  the  last 
express  was  referred  to  the  committee  in  each  house,  on  the 
judiciary — that  of  the  Senate  has  reported  a  bill  which  you 
will  receive  from  the  secretary  of  the  Treasury  by  the  con- 
veyance that  will  hand  you  this — you  will  see  from  a  perusal, 
that  it  contains,  with  the  powers  you  possessed,  every 
authority  necessary  to  enable  the  executive  to  execute  the 
revenue  laws,  and  protect  your  citizens  engaged  in  their  sup- 
port, &  to  punish  all  who  may  attempt  to  resist  their  execu- 
tion by  force.  This  bill  has  been  made  the  order  of  the  day 
for  Monday  next,  and  altho  this  delay  has  been  submitted 
to  by  the  Senate,  still  I  have  no  doubt  but  it  will  pass  by  a 
very  large  majority  in  both  Houses — There  will  be  some 
intemperate  discussion  on  the  bill  &  on  Calhoun's  and 
Grundy's  resolutions. 

"  It  was  my  duty  to  make  known  to  Congress,  being  in 
session,  the  state  of  the  Union ;  I  withheld  to  the  last 
moment  to  give  Congress  time  to  act  before  the  first  of 
February — Having  clone  my  duty  in  this  respect,  should 
Congress  fail  to  act  on  the  bill,  and  I  shall  be  informed  of 
the  illegal  assemblage  of  an  armed  force  with  intention  to 
oppose  the  execution  of  the  revenue  laws,  under  the  late 
ordinance  of  S°  Carolina,  I  stand — prepared  forthwith  to  issue 
my  proclamation  warning  them  to  disperse.  Should  they 
fail  to  comply  with  the  proclamation,  I  will  forthwith  call 
into  the  field,  such  a  force  as  will  overawe  resistance,  put 
treason  &  rebellion  down  without  blood,  and  arrest  and  hand 
over  to  the  judiciary  for  trial  and  punishment,  the  leaders, 
exciters  and  promoters  of  this  rebellion  &  treason. 

"  You  need  not  fear  the  assemblage  of  a  large  force  at 
Charleston — give  me  early  information,  officially,  of  the 
assemblage  of  a  force  armed,  to  carry  into  effect  the  ordi- 
nance &  laws,  nullifying  our  revenue  laws,  and  to  prevent 
their  execution,  and  in  ten  or  fifteen  days  at  farthest  I  will 
have  in  Charleston  from  ten  to  fifteen  thousand  men  well 
organized  troops,  well  equipped  for  the  field — and  twenty 
thousand,  or  thirty,  more,  in  the  interior.  I  have  a  tender  of 
volunteers  from  every  state  in  the  Union — I  can,  if  need  be, 
which  God  forbid,  march  two  hundred  thousand  men  in 
forty  days  to  quell  any,  &  every  insurrection,  or  rebellion 
that  might  arise  to  threaten  our  glorious  confederacy  & 
Union,  upon  which  our  liberty  prosperity  &  happiness  rest. 

"  I  repeat  to  the  union  men  again  fear  not,  the  union  will 
be  preserved  &  treason  and  rebellion  promptly  put  down, 
when,  &  where  it  may  show  its  monster  head.    You  may  rest 


(38  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

assured  that  the  nullies  of  Carolina  will  receive  no  aid  from 
any  quarter — They  have  been  encouraged  by  a  few  from 
Georgia  and  Virginia,  but  the  united  voice  of  the  yeomanry 
of  the  country  and  the  tender  of  volunteers  from  every 
state  have  put  this  down — They  well  know  I  will  execute  the 
laws,  and  that  the  whole  people  will  support  me  in  it,  and 
preserve  the  Union.  .  Even  if  the  Governor  of  Virginia 
should  have  the  folly  to  attempt  to  prevent  the  Militia  from 
marching  thro'  his  state  to  put  the  faction  in  S°  Carolina 
down  &  place  himself  at  the  head  of  an  armed  force  for 
such  a  wicked  purpose,  I  would  arrest  him  at  the  head  of 
his  troops,  &  hand  him  over  to  the  civil  authority  for  trial. 
The  voluntiers  of  his  own  state  would  enable  me  to  do  this.  I 
repeat  again,  my  pride  and  desire  is,  that  the  Union  men  may 
arouse  &  sustain  the  majesty  of  the  constitution  &  the  laws, 
and  save  my  native  state  from  that  disgrace  that  the  Nulli- 
fiers  have  brought  upon  her.  Give  me  early  intelligence  of 
the  assemblage  of  an  armed  force  anywhere  in  the  state, 
under  the  ordinance  &  the  laws  to  nullify  &  resist  the  revenue 
laws  of  the  United  States,  and  you  may  rest  assured  I  will 
act  promptly  and  do  my  duty  to  God  and  my  country,  & 
relieve  the  good  citizens  of  that  despotism  &  tyranny,  under 
which  the  supporters  of  the  Union  now  labour. 

"On  yesterday  the  tariii'  bill  (Verplancks)  would  have 
passed  the  House  of  representatives  had  it  not  have  been  for 
a  very  insulting  &  irritating  speech  by  Wilde  of  Georgia 
which  has  thrown  the  whole  of  Pennsylvania  New  York 
&  Ohio  into  a  flame — I  am  told  there  is  great  excitement, 
and  no  hopes  now  of  its  passing  this  session.  It  is  further 
believed  that  the  speech  was  made  for  this  purpose,  at  the 
instigation  of  the  nullies,  who  wish  no  accommodation  of 
the  tariff — This  will  unite  the  whole  people  against  the 
nullifiers,  &  instead  of  carrying  the  South  with  the  nullies, 
will  have  the  effect  to  arouse  them  against  them  when  it  is 
discovered  their  object  is  nothing  but  disunion.  The  House 
sat  late  &  I  have  not  heard  from  it  since  7  o'clock — I  must 
refer  you  to  Mr  M°Lane  for  further  information  as  it  is  very 
late  &  my  eyes  grow  dim — keep  me  well  advised  &  con- 
stantly— The  arms  are  placed  subject  to  your  requisition, 
and  under  your  discretion  I  keep  no  copy,  nor  have  I  time 
to  correct  this  letter — 

"  In  haste  very  respectfully 

" "  Your  Friend 

"  Andrew  Jackson 

"  J.  R.  Poinsett  Esqr." 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  69 

(No.  6.) 

"Washington  City  February  7th  1833. 

"  DB  Sir, 

"  Yours  of  the  27th  and  28th  ultimo  have  been  handed  me 
by  Mr  Smith— that  of  the  30th  thro'  Col.  Drayton  has  also 
been  recd.    Their  contents  being  considered  I  hasten  to  reply. 

"  The  nullifiers  in  your  state  have  placed  themselves  thus 
far  in  the  wrong.  They  must  be  kept  there  notwithstanding 
all  their  tyranny  and  blustering  conduct,  until  some  act  of 
force  is  committed  or  there  is  an  assemblage  of  an  armed 
force  by  the  orders  of  your  Governor  under  the  ordinance 
and  Replevin  laws  to  resist  the  execution  of  the  laws  of  the 
United  States.  The  Executive  of  the  United  States  has  no 
legal  and  constitutional  power  to  order  the  Militia  into  the 
field  to  suppress  it  until  that  time,  and  not  then,  until  his 
proclamation  commanding  the  insurgents  to  disperse  has 
been  issued.  But  this  you  may  rely  on,  will  be  promptly 
done  by  the  President  the  moment  he  is  advised  by  proper 
affidavits  that  such  is  the  condition  of  your  state.  You  should 
not  therefore  fear  the  result  of  the  movement  anticipated  from 
the  upper  country  for  the  purpose  of  enforcing  the  odious 
and  despotic  writ  in  withernam  should  it  really  be  made. 

"  Keep  me  advised  of  the  first  actual  assemblage  of  an 
armed  force  in  the  upper  part  of  your  state,  or  in  any  other 
part  of  it,  or  in  any  part  of  the  adjoining  states,  and  before 
it  reaches  you  I  shall  interpose  a  force  for  your  protection 
and  that  of  the  city  strong  enough  to  overwhelm  any  effort 
to  obstruct  the  execution  of  the  laws.  But  bear  in  mind 
the  fact  that  this  step  must  be  consequent  upon  the  actual 
assemblage  of  such  a  force,  or  upon  some  overt  act  of  its 
commission.  In  this  event  which  I  trust  in  God  will  not 
happen,  I  will  act  and  with  firmness,  promptness  and  effi- 
ciency. 

"  I  sincerely  lament  that  there  is  a  contingency  so  probable 
which  menaces  the  safety  of  those  who  are  acting  with  you 
to  sustain  the  Union  and  laws  of  our  happy  country.  But 
let  what  will  happen  remain  at  your  post  in  the  performance 
of  this  the  highest  of  all  duties.  Be  firm  in  the  support 
of  the  Union :  it  is  the  sheet  anchor  of  our  liberty  and 
prosperity — dissolve  it  and  our  fate  will  be  that  of  unhappy 
Mexico.  But  it  cannot  be  dissolved :  the  national  voice  from 
Maine  to  Louisiana  with  a  unanimity  and  resolution  never 
before  exceeded  declares  that  it  shall  be  preserved,  and 
those  who  are  assailing  it  under  the  guise  of  nullification 
and  secession  shall  be  consigned  to  contempt  and  infamy. 


70  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

"  In  resisting  the  tyrannic  measures  by  which  the  ruling 
party  in  S°  Carolina  have  proposed  to  obstruct  the  laws  of 
the  Union,  you  are  thrown  back  upon  the  right  of  self 
defence.  Deprived  of  the  protection  guaranteed  to  you  by 
your  own  constitution,  violent  resistance  to  the  tyranny 
which  thus  oppresses  you  becomes  a  duty,  and  in  the  per- 
formance of  it  the  constitution  and  the  laws  of  the  United 
States  will  be  your  shield.  Do  not  doubt  that  this  shield 
will  be  upheld  with  all  the  power  which  I  am  or  may  be 
authorised  to  use. 

"  As  soon  as  I  am  notified  that  the  hostile  array  which  you 
anticipate  has  been  made  the  positions  recommended  as 
proper  to  be  occupied  for  defence  will  be  taken.  Of  this 
fact  let  me  be  notified  by  an  express  who  will  bring  the 
proper  evidences  of  it. 

"  I  have  regretted  that  your  convention  did  not,  as  such, 
memorialise  Congress  to  extend  to  you  the  guarantee  of 
the  constitution,  of  a  republican  form  of  Government, 
stating  the  actual  despotism  which  now  controls  the  state. 
The  action  of  Congress  on  the  subject  would  have  placed 
your  situation  before  the  whole  Union,  and  filled  the  heart 
of  every  true  lover  of  his  country  and  its  liberties  with 
indignation. 

"I  can  order  the  regular  troops  to  take  any  position 
which  may  be  found  necessary :  but  your  own  advice  has 
been  to  '  do  nothing  to  irritate.'  "When  the  crisis  comes  and 
I  issue  my  proclamation,  authority  will  be  given  to  embody 
all  volunteers  enrolled  for  the  support  and  execution  of  the 
laws,  and  the  officers  of  the  same  of  their  own  selection 
will  be  sanctioned  by  the  president,  as  has  been  usual  upon 
the  receipt  of  the  muster  rolls. 

"  It  has  just  been  mentioned  to  me  that  a  bet  has  been 
taken  by  a  man  supposed  to  be  in  the  secrets  of  the  nulli- 
fiers  that  the  convention  will  be  called  and  the  odious  or- 
dinance repealed.  God  grant  that  this  may  be  true.  Let 
not  this  hope  however  lessen  your  watchfulness  or  your  ex- 
ertions— my  pride  is  to  save  the  character  of  my  native 
state  by  the  patriotism  of  its  own  citizens.  Firmness  on 
your  part  will  do  this. 

"  The  Tariff  will  be  reduced  to  the  wants  of  the  Govern- 
ment if  not  at  this  session  of  congress  certainly  at  the  next. 

"Referring  you  to  Mr.  Smith  I  close  this  hasty  scrawl 
with  my  prayers  for  yr  happiness 

"  Andrew  Jackson 

"  J.  K.  Poinsett  Esq"." 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  71 

(No.  7.) 
"  (Private; 

"  Washington  February  17th  1833. 
"  My  Dear  Sir, 

"  I  have  just  received  your  letter  of  the  9th  instant,  I 
never  once  thought,  that  the  mission  of  Mr  Leigh,  with  his 
powers,  would  be  attended  with  any  beneficial  result  what- 
ever :  It  has  only  served  to  place  the  legislature  of  Virginia 
in  a  disagreeable  attitude,  and  has  done  more  harm  than 
it  can  good.  Had  Virginia  passed  resolutions  disapproving, 
as  she  has  done,  nullification,  and  admonishing  the  nullifiers 
to  retrace  their  steps,  this  would  have  done  much  good,  and 
instead  of  encouraging  them  in  expecting  her  aid,  would 
have  caused  them  to  have  repealed  their  ordinance.  The 
great  body  of  the  people  of  Virginia  are  firmly  opposed  to 
the  course  of  the  Legislature  in  this  respect,  and  will  sup- 
port the  United  States  nobly,  should  the  crisis  come,  which 
I  trust  the  firmness  of  the  Union  men  may  yet  prevent. 

"  The  bill  granting  the  powers  asked  will  pass  into  a  law. 
Mr  Webster  replied  to  Mr  Calhoun  yesterday,  and,  it  is  said, 
demolished  him.  It  is  believed  by  more  than  one,  that  Mr 
C.  is  in  a  state  of  dementation — his  speech  was  a  perfect 
failure;  and  Mr  Webster  handled  him  as  a  child.  I  fear 
we  have  many  nullifiers  in  Congress,  who  dare  not  openly 
appear ; — the  vote  on  the  pending  bill  will  unrobe  them. 

"  I  am  delighted  to  learn  that  you  will  convene  the  Union 
Convention  simultaneously  with  that  of  the  nullifiers,  or 
soon  after.  A  bold  and  resolute  stand  will  put  them  down, 
and  you  will  thereby  save  the  character  of  your  State. 
"When  you  recollect  the  noble  cause  you  are  defending, — 
that  our  precious  union  is  the  stake, — that  the  arm  of  the 
United  States,  sustained  by  nineteen  twentieths  of  the  whole 
people,  is  extended  over  you, — you  cannot  be  otherwise  than 
firm,  resolute  and  inflexible.  One  resolution, — that  you  nail 
the  United  States  colours  to  the  mast,  and  will  go  down 
with  the  Union  or  live  free ;  that  you  will,  to  your  last 
breath,  resist  the  tyranny  and  oppression  of  their  ordinance, 
test  oath  and  unconstitutional  proceedings,  will  restore  to 
you  peace  and  tranquility,  which  a  well  adjusted  tariff  will 
confirm. 

"  Before  the  receipt  of  your  letter  Mr.  Livingston  had  an 
interview  with  Mr  Bankhead  on  the  subject  of  the  conduct 
of  the  British  consul  at  Charleston.  Mr  Bankhead  has 
written  &  admonished  him  that  his  exequatur  will  be  revoked 
on  his  first  act  of  interference.     This  I  assure  you,  will  be 


72  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

done.  I  have  only  to  request  that  you  will  give  us  the 
earliest  intelligence  that  you  can  obtain  of  his  having  ordered 
a  British  squadron  to  the  port  of  Charleston ;  and  on  an 
affidavit  of  the  fact  of  one  arriving  there,  his  exequatur  will 
be  revoked. 

"  Keep  me  constantly  advised  of  all  movements  in  bouth 
Carolina,— the  marshalling  troops  to  oppose  the  execution 
of  the  laws  of  the  U.  States,  affirmed  on  affidavit,  and  I  will 
forthwith  use  all  my  powers  under  the  constitution  and  the 

laws  to  put  it  down. 

"  with  great  respect 

«  Yr  friend 
"Andrew  Jackson 
"  J.  R.  Poinsett  Esq*" 

(No.  8.) 

"  Washington,  March  6, 1833. 

"My  Dear  Sir, 

"  Your  letters  of  the  22nd  &  28th  ultimo  are  both  before  me, 
and  I  hasten  to  give  you  a  reply  by  Col.  Drayton,  who  leaves 
in  the  morning. 

I  rejoice  at  the  firmness  lately  evinced  by  the  Union  party. 
The  Bill  more  effectually  securing  the  collection  of  the 
revenue,  or,  as  some  call  it,  the  enforcing  Bill  has  passed  the 
House  of  Rep's  by  the  unparalleled  majority  of  102.  I  say 
unparalleled  because  it  has  not  happened,  according  to  my 
recollection,  in  the  course  of  our  legislation,  that  any  meas- 
ure, so  violently  contested  as  this  has  been,  has  been  sustained 
by  such  a  vote.  This  Bill  gives  the  death  blow  to  Nullifica- 
tion or  Secession,  and,  if  the  Nullifiers  of  your  state  have 
any  regard  for  the  Union,  or  the  bold,  but  respectful  ex- 
pression of  the  peoples  determination,  that  the  laws  shall  be 
executed,  and  that  no  state  shall  secede  at  her  will  and  pleasure, 
there  will  be  no  difficulty. 

The  Tariff  Bill  has  also  become  a  law,  but  was  not  passed 
until  after  the  collection  Bill.  The  passage  of  the  Collection 
Bill  proves  to  the  world  the  fixed  determination  of  Congress 
to  execute,  as  far  as  their  action  was  necessary,  the  laws 
passed  in  pursuance  of  the  Constitution.  I  have  always 
thought  that  Congress  should  reduce  the  Tariff  to  the  wants 
of  the  Government,  and  the  passage  of  such  a  Bill  became 
peculiarly  proper  after  Congress  had,  by  the  passage  of 
the  "  enforcing'  Bill,  so  fully  shewn  to  the  world  that  she 
was  not  to  be  deterred  by  a  faction,  which,  if  found  in  rebel- 
lion and  treason,  she  was  prepared  to  crush  in  an  instant. 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  73 

"  The  Bill  which  has  passed  is  not  of  the  exact  character 
which  I  would  have  preferred,  but  it  is  hoped  that  it  may 
have  a  good  effect  in  the  South,  as  most,  if  not  all,  of  her 
prominent  men  gave  it  their  support. 

«  Congress  displayed,  after  shewing  how  little  it  regarded 
the  threats  of  some  South  Carolinians  a  proper  sense  of 
justice  to  the  people  by  making  the  reduction  they  did 
and  to  that  extent,  relieving  the  people  of  useless  taxation.' 
I  am  happy  to  learn  that  you  intend  moving  on  pari 
?assu :  with  the  nullification  party,  and  that  your  convention 
is  called  to  meet  at  Charleston  to  be  prepared  to  act  if 
necessary,  in  support  of  the  Union.  ' 

"The  stake  is  an  important  one,  and  the  retention  of  it 
worthy  the  patriots  best,  and  noblest  efforts.  If  lost  the 
world  may  bid  adieu  to  liberty  and  all  that  is  dear  to  free- 

III  L  1 1 . 

.  "  Should  the  nullifies  be  rash  enough  to  attempt  seces- 
sion and  form  a  constitution  and  submit  it  to  the  people 
surely  no  one  would  countenance  such  an  unauthorized  act 
by  voting  on  the  question.  I  do  not  doubt  but  that  those 
who  love  their  country  and  our  happy  union  would,  in  such 
event,  be  united  to  a  man  in  their  maintenance,  and  that 
the  union  convention  would  come  forth  in  the  majesty  of 
her  strength-which  consists  in  the  justice  of  her  cause  and 
the  will  of  the  people— in  denunciation  of  such  an  unholv 
procedure.  J 

"  I  have  only  time  to  say  one  word  on  the  Subject  of  the 
union  members  attending  the  nullifying  convention.  Mv 
opinion  is  that  they  ought  to  attend,  but  upon  this  condi- 
tion that  they  present,  with  boldness  and  talent,  the  tyrannical 
wicked  and  unconstitutional  proceedings  of  the  JSTulliners 
to  the  world,  in  all  their  naked  deformity.  The  union  party 
will  always  gain  by  coming  in  open  contact  with  the  STulli- 

"Keason  must,  when  exercised,  always  triumph  over 
error.  Witness  Calhoun's  defeat  in  the  Senate.  If  the 
nullifyingconvention  determine  on  secession,  and  forming  a 
new  constitution  the  Union  members  ought,  after  entering 
their  solemn  protest  against  the  proceedings  immediately 
withdraw,  and  forthwith  join  the  Union  convention,  which 
ought  then  to  issue  its  proclamation,  or  determination,  to 
adhere  to,  and  support  the  Union  of  these  United  States  to 
the  last  extremity.  ' 

"  I  must  refer  you  to  Col.  Drayton  for  the  news  of  the 
city.     Heep  me  constantly  advised  of  matters  relating  to 


74  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

the  conduct  or  movements  of  the  nullifiers,  and  all  will  be 
well,  and  the  federal  union  preserved. 

"  Tr  Friend 

"  Andrew  Jackson 

"  J.  R.  Poinsett  Esq*." 

These  letters  of  General  Jackson  seem  to  me  strikingly 
characteristic  of  the  man.     They  are  clear,  bold,  and  de- 
cided in  their  tone,  beginning,  it  will  be  observed,  with  a 
certain  calm  dignity,  and  then  swelling  with  a  crescendo  of 
passionate  indignation  as  the  thought  of  the  crime  with 
which  he  is  dealing  fires  his  heart.     They  leave  no  doubt 
either  as  to  his  sentiments  or  his  intentions.     The  cloud  of 
sophistry,  which  the  disunionists  had  thrown  around  the  re- 
lations between  the  General  Government  and  that  of  the 
States  and  the  obligations  of  obedience  to  the  supreme  law 
of  the  land,  disappears  as  it  comes  in  contact  with  the  strong, 
practical  common  sense  of  the  President.     In  the  position 
which  he  occupied  he  could  see  but  one  duty  which  he  was 
called  upon  to  perform,  and  that  was  to  take  care  that  the 
laws  should  be  faithfully  executed.     His  views  of  his  duty 
may  have  been  narrow,  but  they  were  exceedingly  clear.    In 
these  letters  there  is  not  one  word  of  sympathy  for  those 
who  have  taken  revolutionary  methods  of  righting  what  he 
in  common  with  them  regarded  as  a  grievance.     He  makes 
no  excuse  or  apology  for  any  one  who  has  been  involved  in 
the  guilt  of  rebellion,  and  he  waits  only  for  the  overt  act, 
which  shall  make  their  act  treasonable,  to  order  their  arrest 
and  trial.     He  is  so  carried  away  by  the  earnestness  of  his 
desire  to  suppress  armed  resistance  to  the  execution  of  the 
laws  that  he  is  utterly  unyielding,  even  at  times  stern  and 
pitiless.     His   business   is   not  to  advise  or   suggest  com- 
promises, still  less  to  conciliate,  but  to  act.     He  goes  so 
far  as  to  maintain  that  although  an  act  of  Congress  may  be 
useful  in  authorizing  him  to  close  the  ports,  yet  that  no 
such  act  is  necessary  to  empower  him  to  execute  his  con- 
stitutional duty  of  enforcing  the  execution  of  existing  laws. 
Yet  he  had  no  design  or  intention  of  doing  any  arbitrary 
or  illegal  act.     His  duty  he  looked  upon  as  completed  when 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett.  75 

he  arrested  traitors  against  the  government,  even,  as  he 
says,  "  the  Governor  of  Virginia  at  the  head  of  his  troops," 
and  handed  them  over  to  the  courts,  to  be  there  tried  and 
punished  for  their  treason. 

It  may  readily  be  conceived  how  these  letters  must  have 
cheered  and  encouraged  Mr.  Poinsett  and  his  friends  and 
colleagues,  the  leaders  of  the  Union  party  in  South  Carolina. 
The  military  forces  of  the  State  had  been  rapidly  organized 
under  its  authority,  and  thousands  of  armed  men  from  the 
country  districts  burned  with  impatience  to  sweep  down 
upon  Charleston  and  seize  there  the  men  who  were  loyal  to 
the  Union.  During  the  early  months  of  1833  it  cannot  be 
doubted  that  the  position  of  these  men  was  one  of  great 
personal  danger.  They  looked  upon  the  measures  which 
had  been  adopted  by  the  General  Government  for  the  de- 
fence of  Charleston  (which  are  so  graphically  described  in 
Dr.  Johnson's  narrative)  as  inadequate,  and  in  their  anxiety 
they  naturally  complained  that  the  Government  seemed 
slow  in  coming  to  their  relief.  The  letters  of  two  of  these 
leaders,  Mr.  Poinsett  and  Judge  Huger,  at  this  crisis  have 
been  preserved,  and  they  show  how  great  was  the  alarm 
and  how  well-founded  were  their  fears  of  danger.1  These 
letters  were  addressed  to  Colonel  Drayton,  at  that  time  a 
member  of  the  House  of  Representatives  from  the  Charles- 
ton district, — a  man  who  did  more  and  suffered  more  for 
the  cause  of  the  Union  in  those  trying  times  than  any  other 
inhabitant  of  the  State, — and  it  was  intended  that  they 
should  be  laid  before  the  President  for  his  information  and 
guidance.  Some  extracts  from  these  letters  may  be  given 
as  disclosing  the  actual  condition  of  affairs  as  it  appeared  to 
these  leaders  of  what  then  seemed  to  be  a  "  forlorn  hope." 

On  the  8th  of  January,  1833,  Mr.  Poinsett  writes : 

1 1  am  indebted  to  my  friend  Mr.  Heyward  Drayton  for  the  letters 
which  were  addressed  by  Messrs.  Poinsett  and  Huger  to  his  father. 
These  letters  complete  the  secret  and  confidential  correspondence  be- 
tween the  chiefs  of  the  Union  party  in  1832-33.  It  is  a  little  singular 
that  these  letters,  coming  from  such  different  quarters,  should  find  a 
common  resting-place  in  Philadelphia,  and  that  they  should  now  be  used 
for  the  first  time  to  vindicate  the  course  taken  by  their  authors. 


76  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

"  I  am  afraid  that  all  hope  of  putting  down  nullification 
in  this  State  by  moral  force  must  be  abandoned — I  most 
sincerely  hope  the  vain  blustering  of  these  madmen  will 
not  influence  the  deliberations  of  Congress  upon  the  tariff. 
Here  a  hope  is  cherished  that  nothing  will  be  done  in  the 
matter  this  year  as  such  a  concession  would  confirm  the 
power  &  the  popularity  of  the  Kullifiers  of  the  State.  I  do 
not  share  this  sentiment.  Such  a  result  is  of  minor  im- 
portance. Let  us  destroy  the  monster,  and  try  conclusions 
with  these  men  afterwards.  I  am  glad  to  hear  your  opinion 
of  the  sentiments  of  Congress  respecting  the  secession  of 
the  State.  I  go  for  practical  results  rather  than  for  meta- 
physical abstract  rights.  If  a  State  should  be  allowed  to 
secede  our  gov'  is  at  an  end." 

He  then  adds  significantly, — 

"  I  should  like  to  have  one  hundred  sabres,  and  as  many 
pairs  of  pistols  sent  to  the  commanding  officer  here." 

On  the  16th  of  January  he  writes  to  Colonel  Drayton, — 

"  I  observe  that  you  say  that  you  have  urged  the  Pres* 
not  to  interfere  with  our  party  by  affording  them  the  aid 
of  the  Federal  troops  under  existing  circumstances.  But  what 
are  we  to  do  if  Charleston  is  filled  with  Nullifiers  from  the 
country?  The  regular  troops,  Municipal  and  Magazine 
guards  will  consist  of  150  men  divided  into  two  companies. 
The  artillery  is  in  the  hands  of  our  opponents,  and  even  if 
we  had  ordnance  we  have  no  artillery  men.  Five  thousand 
men  have  Volunteered,  and  those  from  Richland  &  Sumter 
are  anxious  to  be  brought  down  to  insult  us  .  .  . 

"  Is  not  raising,  embodying  and  marching  men  to  oppose 
the  laws  of  the  United  States  an  overt  act  of  treason? 
Ought  not  such  acts  to  authorise  the  interference  of  the 
Executive  ?  I  have  no  hope  &  see  no  means  by  which  the 
revenue  laws  can  be  enforced  by  legal  process  &c." 

Many  other  letters  from  Mr.  Poinsett  might  be  given,  all 
showing  an  earnest  desire  on  his  part  that  a  sufficiently  large 
Federal  force  should  be  sent  to  South  Caiolina,  ready  to  act 
the  moment  the  Nullifiers  should  begin  hostilities.  The 
letters  of  General  Jackson  were  written  to  reassure  him 
and  his  friends  that  the  whole  force  of  the  Government 
would  be  employed  to  sustain  them. 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  77 

Another  of  Colonel  Drayton's  correspondents  was  Judge 
Daniel  E.  Huger.  He  was  a  most  conspicuous  man  in 
South  Carolina,  an  earnest  leader  of  the  Union  party  there, 
and,  like  all  the  others,  had  many  friends  and  relatives 
on  the  other  side.  He  took  a  somewhat  different  view 
of  the  subject  of  Federal  armed  intervention  from  Mr. 
Poinsett. 

In  a  letter  dated  December  17,  1832,  Judge  Huger,  after 
explaining  that  the  Union  Convention  at  Columbia  did  not 
call  upon  the  President  for  protection  lest  such  an  appeal 
should  "  Exasperate  the  Nullifiers,"  goes  on  to  say, — 

"  I  trust  in  God  that  the  President  will  not  use  the  means 
he  confessedly  has,  but  will  leave  to  Congress  the  deter- 
mination of  the  course  to  be  pursued.  Not  that  I  would 
have  our  noble  President  flinch  from  responsibility,  but 
Congress  is  regarded  as  the  People  of  the  United  States. 
From  their  course  there  could  be  no  appeal,  and  this  would 
dampen  very  much  the  spirit  of  our  opponents." 

Again,  in  another  letter  of  the  same  date,  he  says, — 

"  The  great  body  of  the  Union  party,  at  this  moment,  are 
unwilling  to  look  to  the  Gov*  for  protection,  and  I  confess 
for  one  that  I  would  prefer  defending  ourselves,  and  only  in 
the  last  extremity  accept  of  Federal  assistance.  I  am  aware 
how  dangerous  this  course  is.  I  do  not  like  the  idea  of 
having  our  opponents  put  down  by  force.  If  the  parties 
take  the  field,  the  Gov*  might  be  used  as  an  auxiliary  with- 
out offending  the  State  pride  of  our  people,  but  if  the  Gov* 
be  principal  in  the  war,  our  people  will  join  most  reluctantly 
if  they  join  at  all.  The  Gov*,  of  course,  must  do  its  duty ; 
the  revenue  laws,  I  suppose,  must  be  enforced,  but  disabuse, 
if  you  can,  the  President  of  any  wish  on  our  part  to  have 
forces  marched  into  this  State  with  a  view  to  our  protection. 
We  would  rather  suffer  much  than  see  our  countrymen 
dragooned." 

It  was  perhaps  well  for  the  peace  of  the  country  at  that 
time,  that  these  conflicting  opinions  of  the  leaders  of  the 
Union  party  in  South  Carolina,  as  to  the  nature  and  amount 
of  coercion  which  it  was  expedient  to  use  in  order  to  secure 


78  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  B.  Poinsett. 

obedience  to  the  laws,  were  reviewed  by  the  cool  and  saga- 
cious judgment  of  Colonel  Drayton  before  they  were  sub- 
mitted to  the  President.  Between  the  urgent  appeals  of 
Mr.  Poinsett  for  the  immediate  use  of  force  enough  to  effect 
the  object,  and  the  strange  kind  of  force  advocated  by  Judge 
Huger,  half  principal  and  half  auxiliary  (a  truly  Southern 
definition  of  force,  by  the  way),  and  the  inflexible  deter- 
mination of  the  President  to  employ  force  of  any  kind, 
"principal  or  auxiliary,"  or  both,  to  compass  his  ends, 
which  were  the  execution  of  the  laws  and  the  punishment 
of  rebels  against  their  authority,  Colonel  Drayton  must  have 
been  sorely  perplexed  how  to  satisfy  all  parties.  But  he  proved 
himself  a  negotiator  and  diplomatist  worthy  of  the  occasion. 
He  had  some  peculiar  qualifications  for  such  an  onice.  He 
had  proved  himself  during  a  long  course  of  public  service  a 
man  of  such  high  honor  and  such  unimpeached  integrity 
that  he  was  at  that  time  not  only  respected  but  trusted  by 
all  parties.  He  was  deeply  impressed  with  the  soundness 
of  the  political  views  held  by  the  Union  party,  he  knew 
well  the  lawlessness  and  madness  of  the  Nullifiers,  and  he 
could  not  help  seeing  that  if  obedience  to  the  laws  of  the 
United  States  was  to  be  secured,  force  must  be  in  the  last 
resort  employed.  But  with  the  far-seeing  sagacity  of  a 
statesman,  and  with  a  certain  tender  regard  for  the  mis- 
guided men  of  his  own  State,  he  thought  that  the  ultima 
ratio  should  be  postponed  until  every  other  method  of 
compelling  obedience  had  been  exhausted. 

With  these  views  he  turned  his  attention  first  to  removing 
the  great  obstacle  to  peace, — the  provisions  of  the  Tariff  Acts 
of  1828  and  1832.  On  the  9th  of  February,  1833,  he  pro- 
posed an  amendment  to  the  pending  bill  of  Mr.  Verplanck, 
reducing  the  rate  of  duties  one-third  after  the  2d  of  March, 
1834,  and  although  his  proposition  was  then  rejected  by  the 
House,  its  introduction  none  the  less  marks  the  beginning 
of  the  compromise  system  which  was  afterwards  adopted 
as  a  modus  vivendi  by  both  Houses.  In  a  letter  to  Mr.  Poin- 
sett of  that  date,  he  thus  explains  the  motives  that  led  to 
his  action : 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  79 

"  Should  what  I  have  proposed  become  a  law  the  accumu- 
lation of  the  surplus  revenue  would  be  prevented,  the  rate 
of  protection  would  be  diminished,  and  an  interval  would  be 
allowed  for  the  manufacturers  to  save  themselves  from  the 
losses  which  they  would  sustain  by  an  instantaneous  removal 
of  the  protective  duties.  For  the  sake  of  South  Carolina  as 
she  is,  I  would  not  make  the  slightest  effort  to  reduce  the 
protective  duties.  On  the  contrary,  I  should  be  opposed  to 
legislating  altogether  at  this  time  unless  by  doing  so  a  result 
might  be  accomplished  which  might  deprive  the  Nullifiers 
of  their  means  of  doing  mischief  by  conciliating  those  States 
whose  co-operation  they  are  desirous  of  obtaining,  and 
without  whose  co-operation  they  must  be  sensible  that  their 
revolutionary  plans  would  fail." 

Meanwhile,  Colonel  Drayton  had  submitted  to  the  Presi- 
dent the  views  of  Judge  Huger.  On  the  31st  of  December 
he  writes  to  Mr.  Poinsett, — 

"  I  have  had  several  conversations  with  the  President  & 
proposed  to  him  not  to  interfere  with  our  party  by  affording 
them  the  aid  of  the  Federal  troops  under  existing  circum- 
stances, &  he  acquiesces  in  the  policy  of  this  forbearance, 
observing  that  he  hopes  to  see  the  patriots  of  S.  Carolina 
put  down  sedition  &  rebellion  themselves.  So  soon  as  the 
laws  passed  by  our  late  legislature  in  conformity  with  the 
directions  of  the  Ordinance  shall  reach  here  a  special  message, 
I  presume,  will  be  sent  by  the  Pres*  to  Congress.  Congress 
will  then  have  this  distracting  subject  before  them,  and 
unless  I  labor  under  the  darkest  error,  the  majority  of  Con- 
gress will  not  permit  South  Carolina  peaceably  to  secede  from 
the  Union." 

As  time  went  on,  and  the  JSTullifiers  grew  more  bold  and 
defiant,  Colonel  Drayton  was  forced  to  regard  armed  inter- 
vention as  a  measure  becoming  more  probable  every  day. 
But  his  loyalty  to  the  Union  never  grew  cool  even  when 
submitted  to  the  crucial  test  of  coercion  should  it  be  found 
necessary  to  adopt  it. 

"If  our  citizens,"  he  says  in  a  letter  to  Mr.  Poinsett, 
January  13,  "  will  not  pay  duties  upon  dutiable  imports,  and 
we  resolve  to  exclude  the  Federal  Courts  from  deciding  con- 
troversies which  are  constitutionally  within  their  jurisdic- 


80  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

tion  our  ports  will  be  blockaded.  ...  In  the  event  of  our 
being  drawn  into  a  struggle  with  our  foes  and  the  foes  of 
our  country,  and  of  our  rights  and  liberties  I  hope  &  trust 
that  we  shall  meet  the  emergency  like  men,  prepared  without 
boasting  to  defend  ourselves  with  arms  in  our  hands.  The 
Nullifiers  appear  to  be  persuaded  that  they  could  raise  the 
blockade  of  our  ports  and  produce  the  retreat  of  the  navy  and 
military  of  the  Federal  Gov*  whenever  they  please  simply 
by  the  formal  declaration  of  Secession ;  but  in  this  respect 
they  labor  under  the  same  delusion  which  has  characterised 
ail  "their  proceedings,  for  nothing  is  more  evident  to  any 
observer  at  this  place  than  that  the  Congress  of  the  United 
States  will  not  permit  South  Carolina  to  withdraw  herself 
from  the  Union." 

"  The  President  contemplates  sending  a  special  message 
to  Congress  upon  the  subject  of  our  affairs  &  declared  that 
he  would  immediately  execute  his  intention  unless  I  should 
say  to  him  that  a  delay  would  contribute  to  the  safety  of 
the  members  of  the  Union  party.  I  told  him  that  it  would 
be  a  source  of  infinite  regret  to  us  if  the  proper  course  of 
the  Gov*  should  be  arrested  or  paralysed  by  any  considera- 
tion which  was  personal  to  ourselves,  that  we  felt,  I  was 
confident,  the  same  inclination  which  he  did  that  the  mad- 
ness &  folly  and  lawless  usurpation  of  those  who  now  tyran- 
nised over  us  should  be  suppressed  by  the  authority  of  the 
Union.  I  suggested  to  the  President  that  it  might  be  ad- 
visable to  postpone  the  communication  for  a  few  days  in 
order  that  some  impression  may  be  made  on  the  tariff  dis- 
cussion, this  he  has  promised  to  do." 

The  danger  of  an  armed  collision  was  averted,  as  is  well 
known,  by  the  unshaken  firmness  of  the  President,  and  the 
passage  of  the  Compromise  Bill  of  Mr.  Clay  by  the  com- 
bined vote  of  the  Protectionists  and  the  Mlifiers,  with  Mr. 
Calhoun  at  their  head.  The  secret  history  of  this  bill  may 
be  read  in  Mr.  Benton's  "  Thirty  Years  in  the  Senate,"  vol. 
i.  p.  342.  Suffice  it  to  say  here  that  the  result  was  that  the 
bill  gave  to  the  Protectionists  all  that  they  could  reasonably 
claim  in  the  changed  condition  of  feeling  throughout  the 
country  in  regard  to  the  Tariff  question, — a  rate  of  protection 
gradually  decreasing  during  nine  years, — while,  of  course,  it 
was  not  satisfactory  to  the  Legislature  of  South  Carolina, 
which  continued  for  some  time  to  protest,  threaten,  and 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  81 

nullify.  But  the  people  outside  of  the  State,  and  the  General 
Government  paid  little  attention  to  all  this  talk,  regarding 
it,  as  it  proved  to  be,  mere  brutum  fulmen. 

I  certainly  have  no  design  of  writing  a  history  of  the 
Nullification  troubles.  I  merely  wish  to  present  the  views 
of  some  of  the  most  eminent  men  in  South  Carolina  at  that 
time — of  Poinsett,  of  Huger,  and  of  Drayton — in  regard  to 
a  question  which  has  always  been  important,  and  which  our 
later  history  has  shown  to  be  the  most  practical  in  its  bear- 
ings of  any  which  can  agitate  the  country, — namely,  the  duty 
of  the  General  Government  to  enforce  the  execution  of  its 
own  laws  under  all  circumstances  and  everywhere.  If  this 
is  a  principle  which  is  now  deeply  rooted  in  the  national  life, 
and  universally  recognized  as  the  basis  of  our  national  policy, 
we  ought,  it  seems  to  me,  to  recall  with  pride  and  thankful- 
ness the  heroic  struggles  of  those  men  who  in  the  darkest 
days  of  trial  and  personal  danger,  and  with  a  full  conscious- 
ness that  they  were  sacrificing  fortune,  and  old  friends,  as 
well  as  social  and  political  position,  boldly  proclaimed  and 
maintained  the  truth  upon  which  the  Government  under 
which  we  live  has  been  built.1 

When  the  strife  and  excitement  attendant  upon  the 
"  troublous  times"  of  the  Nullification  era  had  closed  Mr. 
Poinsett  married,  and  became  a  rice  planter  near  George- 
town. Here  he  exhibited  the  same  enterprise,  intelligence, 
and  activity  which  he  had  displayed  in  his  public  life.  He  be- 
came a  prosperous  planter,  and  the  hours  which  he  could 
spare  from  the  cultivation  of  his  farm  were  given  to  reading, 
and  especially  to  scientific  studies,  while  he  enjoyed  the 
society  of  the  cultivated  people  who  thronged  around  him, 
eager  to  learn  from  his  lips  the  lessons  which  had  been  taught 
him  by  a  large  experience  of  life  in  many  countries  and  under 
many  diverse  conditions.  Like  many  retired  statesmen  he 
became  extremely  fond  of  the  comparative  repose  of  rural 

1  Colonel  Drayton  resigned  his  seat  in  Congress  in  1833,  owing,  as  he 
expressed  it,  "to  a  deep-rooted  and  thorough  disgust  of  public  life." 
He  removed  shortly  afterwards  to  Philadelphia,  and  the  remainder  of  hia 
useful  and  honorable  life  was  passed  in  that  city. 

6 


82  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

life.  He  believed  in  the  possibility  of  cultivating  success- 
fully here  mauy  of  the  plants  which  he  had  seen  growing 
in  the  various  countries  he  had  visited,  and  he  amused 
himself  with  experiments  to  naturalize  them  here.  Prob- 
ably this  period  of  his  life  was  the  happiest  he  had  ever 
known.  He  had  at  last  a  home  where  he  was  surrounded 
not  only  by  the  comforts  of  life,  but  where  his  refined  and 
elegant  tastes  had  full  play.  Shut  out,  it  is  true,  by  his 
political  opinions  from  public  life  in  his  own  State,  he 
nevertheless  enjoyed  what  has  always  been  "  the  classic 
diversion  of  a  statesman's  care," — the  cultivation  of  his 
fields  and  the  never-failing  resource  of  his  books. 

But  although  his  own  State  neglected  him,  he  was  not 
forgotten  by  those  who  remembered  and  could  reward  his 
services  to  the  nation.  He  was  appointed  Secretary  of  "War 
in  1837  by  Mr.  Yan  Buren,  and  certainly  no  one  was  a  bet- 
ter judge  than  he  of  the  activity,  temper,  and  tact  which 
Mr.  Poinsett  would  bring  to  the  execution  of  the  duties  of 
his  office.  The  new  field  of  duty  upon  which  he  entered  at 
Washington  was,  as  we  have  seen,  one  entirely  suited  to  his 
tastes  and  habits  from  his  earliest  boyhood.  He  at  once 
introduced  strict  methods  of  accounting:  into  the  transaction 
of  the  business  of  the  office,  and  he  especially  distinguished 
himself  by  improvements  in  what  may  be  called  the  scien- 
tific work  of  the  Government.  It  was  he  who  was  chosen 
(although  the  subject  properly  belonged  to  the  Navy  Depart. 
ment)  by  Mr.  Yan  Buren's  Cabinet  to  organize  and  equip 
the  "  Wilkes  Exploring  Expedition,"  and  whatever  credit  the 
nation  received  for  the  results  of  that  voyage,  a  good  deal  of 
it  belongs  to  his  provident  care  and  liberality  in  fitting  out 
the  expedition.  He  planned  and  founded,  moreover,  the  first 
National  Museum  and  Institute  in  Washington,  which  was 
the  worthy  progenitor  of  the  more  famous  Smithsonian  In- 
stitution. 

While  in  Europe  in  early  life  he  had  been  much  struck 
with  certain  improvements  which  had  beeu  introduced  into 
the  organization  of  the  French  armies  under  Napoleon. 
Among  these  things  was  the  constitution  and  duties  of  the 


The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett.  83 

MU  major,  or  general  staff  of  the  army,  the  improvements  in 
artillery  equipment  and  practice,  and  the  vast  importance  of 
a  corps,  known  in  the  English  service  as  that  of  sappers 
miners.     He  labored  hard  to  introduce  all  these  improve- 
ments into  our  own  small  army.     He  was  only  partially 
successful.     He  completely  reorganized,  however,  our  artil- 
lery, and  established   batteries  of  what  were  called  flying 
artillery.     He  sent  Colonel  Ringgold,  who  was  afterwards 
killed  while  doing  gallant  service  at  Palo  Alto  in  command 
of  one  of  these  batteries,  to  Europe  to  perfect  himself  in 
the  details  of  the  service.     Much  of  our  success  in  the  bat- 
tles of  the  Mexican  War  was  owing,  as  is  well  known,  to  the 
superiority  of  our  artillery,  and  its  excellence  was  in  a  great 
measure  due  to  the  prudent  care  and  foresight  of  Mr.  Poin- 
sett while  Secretary  of  War. 

When  Mr.  Van  Buren's  term  as  President  expired,  Mr 
Poinsett  returned  to  his  plantation  in  South  Carolina  He 
went  back  to  his  old  work  with  renewed  interest,  and  took 
no  further  part  in  political  affairs.  His  health,  as  well  as 
that  of  his  wife,  required  attention,  and  they  lived  happy 
and  contented  together  in  private  life.  No  one  enjoyed 
more  domestic  happiness  than  he;  and  no  one  had  more 
reason  to  wish  for  its  long  continuance.  But  the  time  of 
his  departure  was  at  hand,  and  he  died  peacefully  on  the 
12th  of  December,  1851,  being  nearly  seventy-three  years 
old.  J 

Mr.  Poinsett  had  been  much  in  the  public  eye  for  more 
than  a  half  a  century,  and  his  career  had  been,  as  I  have 
endeavored  to  show,  a  singularly  useful  and  honorable  one 
During  the  whole  of  it  he  was  remarkable  for  many  quali- 
ties in  which  our  prominent  men  are  often  singularly  defi- 
cient.    In  the  extent  of  his  knowledge,  in  his  devotion  to 
duty  as  a  principle  in  public  affairs,  in  the  firmness  and  de- 
cision of  his  character,  in  the  great  courage  of  his  opinions 
he  had  few  if  any  rivals.     As  a  speaker  he  was  clear  and 
forcible;  his  voice  was  not  strong,  but  so  distinct  that  he 
could  be  heard  without  difficulty.     In  the  control  of  his 


84  The  Life  and  Services  of  Joel  R.  Poinsett. 

temper,  in  his  self-possession  in  danger,  in  the  courteous 
simplicity  of  his  manners,  he  was  a  model.  Above  all,  he 
was  a  typical  American,  willingly  sacrificing  everything  to 
maintain  his  American  principles,  and  as  such,  it  seems  to 
me  that  he  is  one  of  those  Americans  whose  memory  we 
should  not  willingly  let  die. 


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